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Beware the media is a destabilising tool ... the case of Reporters Without Borders

30/04/2018
by Staff Writer
Columns

So what has Namibia gained from being number one regarding the media freedom in Africa for all those years?  

Can anyone list all the benefits that accrued to this country for being number 1? And again can someone indicate the disadvantages or advantages Namibia will now face for being number 26? 

Take time to think about China, USA, Russia and other countries ranked lowly by this French organisation but are thriving nonetheless.

For those who have not heard, Reporters Without Borders say that no journalist was killed or injured or detained in Namibia in 2018 but still ranked the country 26 internationally. Last year, Namibia was number 24. In 2016, Namibia was 17th. 

Reporters Without Borders whose rankings have been used by several liberals to denigrate African countries, especially, was founded by four French people - Robert Ménard, Rémy Loury, Jacques Molénat, Émilien Jubineau - in 1985.  

A glance at the reasons the Reporters Without Borders give for the rankings are suspiciously the same over the past three years, even when Namibia was said to have the freest media sector in Africa.

The fact that some of the reasons given are flimsy and based on perception makes the whole ranking system a joke. 

These are the reasons for the downgrade:

1. the lack of a freedom of information law continues to obstruct their work. 

2. Those who dare to criticise the authorities are often the target of government threats and seekrefuge on the Internet, where they are not subject to control. 

3. At the same time, self-censorship is common in the state-owned media. 

4. Public order and security legislation is often used to restrict the freedom to inform, while journalists are sometimes the targets of insults or attacks by political parties. 

5. Pro-government media receive a large chunk of their revenue available from advertising, which threatens the financial prospects of the privately-owned media and independent news coverage. 

In 2017, the Reporters Without Borders said:

1. journalists are often the target of government threats.

2. critical journalists find refuge on the internet, where they are not subject to control.

3. self-censorship is common in state-owned media. 

4. public order and security legislation are often used to restrict freedom of information. 

5. Journalists are often the targets of attacks by political parties.  

In 2016, Reporters Without Borders said:

1. journalists are safe.

2. media landscape is diverse.

3. no restrictions are placed on the Internet. 

Plainly, there isn't much change in the reasons given for the rankings. So one wonders what happened for Namibia to slide down the ladder?

STATE MEDIA FUNDING 

One interesting point the Reporters Without Borders raise is that the State funds pro-government media in Namibia. It's not clear what this means because the truth is that the government funds New Era, NBC and the Southern Times. 

While there was an order to advertise government stuff in pro-government media, this has not been the case because even so-called private media get such adverts.  

To prove this, check last week's papers and see the vocational training colleges advert in some of the papers that are critical to the government.

If at all it it is true that the state funds pro-government media, and if such media exist surely there would not be so much uncertainty in the sector today.  

In any case, the claim of state funding pro-government media is a fallacy in the absence of proof of such media's existence. 

For the Reporters Without Borders to claim that African states fund pro-government media is ironic because France 24 is funded by the French government. 

These Reporters Without Borders choose to ignore the reasons why newspapers are founded, especially when one considers that their French government decided to create a reliable media that speaks for the French people.

Is this not the reason why the French policymakers voted in 2003 to form a public-owned corporation (groupement d'intérêt public) grouping all of the public broadcasters (France Télévisions, RFO, RFI, TV5 and AFP) with the goal of launching the channel at the end of 2004?

The French government even set aside €100 million per year (N$1,497,566,862) to run state-owned media. So one wonders how people who worked and live in a country that pours in so much money pretend not to understand. 

CAN THE FOUNDERS BE TRUSTED? 

But how much can one trust Reporters Without Borders, a French organisation based in Paris and founded by French reporters?

The answer could be no especially after one of the founders,  Robert Ménard, who was the secretary general for 23 years showed his true bigotry and racist colours by calling on Muslim refugees to return to their countries in 2015. 

Ménard, a former journalist and now the far right mayor of Beziers, also beat up two journalists in 2015. 

Far-right politicians - conservatives, Christian Democrats, classical liberals, nationalists and fascists - oppose socialism and social democracy.  

 Ménard was fined 2,000 euros for inciting hatred for his rant against the Muslim community. He also put up anti-migrant posters and called for a local referendum ahead of the arrival of asylum-seekers in his southern French town. 

 "That's It; They're Coming!", one of the posters exclaimed and on 5 September 2016, he said: "In a class in the city centre of my town, 91% of the children are Muslims. Obviously, this is a problem. There are limits to tolerance."

Media reports at the time also said that Menard had "pointed the finger at kids, whom he describes as a weight on the national community".

Menard says he will appeal against the ruling. 

When he attacked journalists, expectedly, Loury complained about Ménard's behaviour, while another founder, Christophe Deloire, distanced the Reporters Without Borders from the former founder and secretary general's behaviour. 

MEDIA FREEDOM 

The press in Namibia needs a free operating space and enabling laws but to gobble up whatever ill-informed rankings will not make much difference.  

It is not a secret that some private media houses in Africa have been used and are being used by the West to advance their economic agenda.

Remember that the West always comes up with various tactics to make Africa appear evil.   

In the early years of independence, the West through their secret services destabilised newly formed governments through coups. They funded greedy politicians and soldiers. 

Today, it's not about the coups but what they call regime change where disinformation is used to make Africa and Africans appear stupid. 

Today, there is no secret service, guns and mercenaries but journalists and media houses oiled with heavy funding to do the dirty work. 

CONCLUSION 

While a fair and transparent ranking system is welcome, it should not be forgotten that the media is not what we see on the surface.  

In Europe and the US, the media is a powerful cultural tool, while in Africa the local media denigrate and despise anything African opting to push images of Europe and the US.

The media is used to advance Europe and American agenda, while in Africa, the media is either a tool for painting anything and everything as evil and devilish. 

Because most publishers in Africa want money, they allow themselves to be used just as the military has been used in the past.

Look at MISA and its funders. It is and was never pushing an African agenda but that of its liberal funders.

Why can't Africa come up with its ranking system and fund its own media watchdogs?