Namibia: Unequal party coverage bad for elections

namibia_electionNEWS coverage of political parties by the NBC is continuing to irk opposition parties in the run-up to next weeks elections.

The Nudo Party Youth League Secretary, Pro Laste Ngueumenga, last week told The Namibian that the NBC has been unfair in its radio and television coverage, denying voters equitable access to what each party has to offer.

In the news each day, only one party is making all the headlines, he said, adding that this could encourage voter apathy. We would like to see change so that enough time is given for each political party, he said. If the ruling party is trying to block peoples views via radio, television, or newspapers funded by the Government, at the end of the day we may observe that elections may be free, but they definitely will not be fair, Ngueumenga stated.

He said equitable reporting on radio is especially important, as this is often the only news medium accessible to people in the rural areas.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) yesterday reported that for the week of November 6 to November 12, Swapo increased its dominance of NBC political news coverage to 83 per cent one per cent up from the week before. Other parties that received some coverage on NBC news included the RDP with 8 per cent, APP with 6 per cent, DTA with 1,5 per cent, and Nudo with 1,5 per cent.

NBC ranks the opposition as less newsworthy than Swapo, the IPPR said, expressing concern that this trend could be in breach of the SADC principles and the African Charter on democratic elections.

It said NBC television news was the most skewed news medium. The print media including the state-owned New Era newspaper covered several items about opposition parties that simply didnt make it onto NBC television.

The IPPR report also highlighted the order in which party items appeared in news broadcasts. The items on Swapo rallies tend to be screened in a bloc followed by one or two items about opposition activities or sometimes none at all. It said an opposition party item preceded a Swapo rally only once on TV news.

The IPPR also noted that on average, NBC reports on Swapo items last 2,5 minutes, while those on opposition-related news only lasted 1,5 minutes.

On One Africa Television, the RDP was the most featured party, taking up 50 per cent of the coverage during the week under review after Swapo got 50 per cent of party-related coverage in the previous week.

Both broadcasters increased their coverage and time allocated to election coverage last week. NBC increased its election coverage from 66 minutes to 94 minutes, and One Africas coverage went up from 20 minutes to 30 minutes.

The Namibian

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