The Namibian newspaper has denied claims that it has become fertile ground for sexual abuse and exploitation of interns and junior reporters.
The denial comes hot on the heels of revelations by the Namibia Media Professionals Union (Nampu) that it has been inundated with reports of sexual harassment in newsrooms, a worrying trend where interns and junior reporters are allegedly forced into sexual relationship with their bosses, in exchange of permanent employment.
“As a union, we take the growing allegations of sexual abuse at leading media houses with the seriousness such claims warrant. Nampu will get to the bottom of this. Those found wanting will be exposed. This exploitative environment not only harms individuals but tarnishes the integrity of the journalism profession... we will assist the victims with opening police cases against the perpetrators,” said Nampu’s acting secretary general Jemima Beukes.
Beukes has, however, been reluctant to reveal names of media houses where sexual abuse of journalists has become a norm. This, she justified, is to protect the victims.
However, New Era has been informed that The Namibian’s newsroom has been a cause for concern for the union.
Responding to questions yesterday, The Namibian’s editor-in-chief, Tangeni Amupadhi said no complaints have been brought to his attention.
He, however, hastened to say their human resource team has been proactive, encouraging staff to report incidents of abuse, including sexual harassment and predatory sexual activities.
“From time to time, reminders are sent to staff of The Namibian that abuse shall not be tolerated. We believe in proactively addressing such issues, even if they arise as rumours. We shall continue to raise awareness, and especially to encourage young women to assert their right to a safe environment,” Amupadhi said.
The veteran journalist went on to stress that The Namibian will continue to play a crucial role of exposing abuses, whatever their manifestation, in society.
“Moreover, we work with experts to ensure that our own colleagues, especially those on the frontline, have the confidence to tackle incidents promptly rather than allow rumours to fester,” he said.
Earlier this week, Nampu lamented the snail’s pace at which the labour commissioner is working to approve or reject its application, a situation that has seemingly left journalists to fend for themselves.
At the moment, talk is rife that journalists, particularly interns and junior reporters, are subjected to hostile working environments, sexual abuse and outright exploitation.
Nampu believes urgent action is needed to address these pressing issues in a bid to safeguard press freedom, and ensure the wellbeing of those who work tirelessly to inform the public.
It is a sentiment echoed by journalists across the spectrum.
One of them is Namibian Sun’s Enzo Amuele, who said Nampu’s registration as a full-blown trade union will undoubtedly aid journalists.
“They [Nampu] will give them a platform from which to speak out. Numerous things occur at media outlets, but because the union is not registered, these problems cannot be resolved,” said the Ondangwa-based journalist.
Amuele is also alive to several complaints of sexual harassment incidents in the industry.
In the absence of formal recognition, Nampu has resorted to seeking assistance from international bodies or writing letters to institutions as only effective weapons in its arsenal to protect local journalists.
“We have reached out to the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and are currently in the process of engaging them to lend their support and expertise during this trying time. This state of affairs highlights the gravity of the situation and the urgency with which the Nampu is pursuing its registration,” she said.
Beukes assured that the union remains steadfast in its commitment to safeguarding the rights and wellbeing of journalists in Namibia.
Meanwhile, the labour commissioner last week notified that union that based on the last submission given, it found that the union’s constitution did not comply with the requirements under Section 53 and 57 of the Labour Act of 2007.
“Kindly note that I do not wish to reject or decline the registration of your trade union. Therefore, we resolved to refer your constitution back for appropriate revision or re-drafting,” said labour commissioner Henri Kassen.
He added that this would be the fourth and final referral, urging the union to thoroughly study and the review its constitution.