Despite NBC’s decision to be a no-show for the first-ever Media Ombudsman’s public hearing yesterday, John Nakuta decided to forge ahead, saying due process needed to be followed through.
The publicly funded broadcaster was expected to defend itself against a complaint lodged by the Ovambanderu Traditional Council last year, where it accused NBC of censoring and/or prohibiting members of the public from using the title of “Ombara Otjitambi” when referring to their leader Aletta Nguvauva on radio stations and television.
Thus, NBC is accused of failing to respect the right to the self-identification of members of the Ovambanderu Traditional Council.
Media Ombudsman Nakuta said it is regrettable that NBC decided not to show up for the public hearing.
He said the code of ethics for Namibian media allows for the matter to be heard in their absence, putting them at a disadvantage, as the Media Complaints Committee will have to make a ruling without NBC’s input.
“For the past two weeks, I have mentioned it to Mr Stanley Similo that the code gives leeway and mandate to adjudicate a complaint in absentia of one party. Even if you responded like it is the case in this matter, and you failed to attend the hearing in person, there is nothing stopping us from adjudicating the matter,” explained Nakuta.
Anne-Doris Hans-Kaumbi, lawyer to Ovambanderu Traditional Council, said the Traditional Authorities Act does not prohibit a person from referring to themselves as chief if they are not recognised or designated.
“I have looked at the NBC Act from which it receives its mandate; nowhere in this act does it preclude NBC from referring to a traditional authority that is not recognised by the title which that specific authority would want their leader to be referred to,” explained Hans-Kaumbi.
The lawyer added they are not advocating for chaos but they want fairness and consistency.
“If a proper interpretation has to be sought, there is nothing stopping the ministry of information from following the proper channels in terms of asking for the amendment to the Traditional Authorities Act in order to make it clear no one is allowed to refer to themselves as a chief, king or queen of a traditional authority, who is not recognised or designated,” said Hans-Kaumbi.
In a letter, dated 15 July 2021, that was read into the record by Nakuta, NBC director general Stanley Similo said they are finding it difficult how to treat leaders of traditional authorities who have not been recognised in terms of the Traditional Authorities Act.
Thus, to remain consistent, NBC is insistent on the usage of the title of traditional leaders as published in the gazette.
On why they were a no show to the hearing, the national broadcaster issued a statement yesterday, stating they have already given their stance on the matter.
NBC said in their statement: “The corporation has identified some participants who will be in attendance at the scheduled Recon Africa Public hearing on Thursday, 19 May 2022”.
On the Ovambanderu matter, the Media Complaints Committee has 14 days to deliberate on the matter and give a ruling.