A soon-to-be launched union that will champion and promote the interests of media practitioners in the country has promised to restore trust in the local media, which they say has been waning in recent years. The Media Professionals’ Union of Namibia (MPUN) has been established to advocate for the interests of Namibian journalists who at the moment are not represented by any union.
In an interview, one of MPUN steering committee members, Penda Jonas Hashoongo said the union would fortify the credibility of the industry by creating an environment that allows media practitioners to carry out their duties without fear or favour.
Equally, he said, it will ensure the assurance that their pursuit to inform the nation about matters of public interest will not be pacified by external parties or the media organisations they represent.
“The ethical standards required of its members will also aim to upend reckless and irresponsible behaviour during the execution of their duties, which should, in turn translate into improved public trust,” Hashoongo alluded.
The founding members feels the lack of a union that represents media professionals has enabled both media houses as well as other stakeholders to create situations that undermine the integrity and independence of these professionals.
Hashoongo added naturally, where criticism is warranted, both journalists and the media houses they represent are not exempted from being held accountable for reckless or irresponsible reporting and structures have been put in place, such as the media ombudsman, to allow individuals or organisations who have been aggrieved by ‘irresponsible or negligent reporting to find recourse beyond the legal route.
“The unfortunate reality is, however, that media professionals seldom have an opportunity to find recourse when they are unjustly criticised or when, for example, they are accused of accepting bribes to pursue certain agendas. A functional and transparent media requires scrutiny on all fronts, and we believe the MPUN will go a long way to ensuring that this takes place,” he explained.
He further maintained the narrative that media professionals are beyond reproach and can practice recklessly with impunity is simplistic in nature, given the structures put in place for affected parties to find recourse. Therefore, MPUN will support a functional media environment in which even its members can face scrutiny, provided that it is just and is not aimed simply at scoring political points or tarnishing the credibility of these professionals so that they are no longer able to carry out their duties properly. He clarified that MPUN is not a profit-driven entity and that the funds derived from membership and other initiatives will go directly towards the operationalisation of the union.
“Our primary objective is to safeguard the integrity of our members. While we take note of impact, fiscal and otherwise, that Covid-19 has had on the industry, we as the MPUN interim committee believe that it is particularly in adverse situations like these that media professionals would benefit from a union such as MPUN, given that some media houses have used the Covid-19 impact to justify the unfair termination of employment contracts for some media professionals and the creation of unfavourable working conditions for others,” Hashoongo said.
Some politicians and business personalities have over the years accused some journalists of receiving bribes reportedly in order to push certain agendas.
Hashoongo indicated those allegations have remained allegations and very little evidence has been provided to authenticate the claims.
He said MPUN will support individuals and organisations who will assist in rooting out the alleged bribery, should it exist, as this will help to safeguard the credibility of media professionals and the industry at large.
According to him, MPUN members will be bound by a certain standard of ethics.
“This means if they transcend these bounds, their membership will come into question. While we cannot speak to the actions of these ‘individuals calling themselves journalists’, we can say that situations like these would be less likely to occur in an environment where you have media professionals represented by a single entity that promotes free, yet responsible, reporting.”