Minister, NBC boss square off in newsroom
After a fiery exchange of words with the NBC‘s Director General, Albertus Aochamub, Minister of Information and Communication Technology Joel Kaapanda at the weekend dramatically walked out of a meeting he had called at the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation’s Oshana regional headquarters.
On Saturday morning, Kaapanda called a meeting with NBC newsroom staff at Oshakati, officials from his ministry in Oshana, Ohangwena, Omusati and Oshikoto regions, as well as Aochamub to answer to perceptions that the national broadcaster was failing the general public in terms of news coverage in the northern regions.
According to insiders, the meeting started on a positive note and seemed to be going well until Kaapanda directed his attention to the cameramen and news reporters and their alleged bias in choosing which news events to cover and which not to.
During the two-hour meeting, Kaapanda allegedly also accused the newsroom of overruling the authority of the Head of the NBC Oshiwambo Radio, Helen Shiimbi, and going about their business without answering to anyone in the region.
“The minister accused us of having no respect for authority and took an issue with us leaving the newsroom to cover events without informing Shiimbi.
“Shiimbi also seems to have a problem with the fact that we don’t attend her morning meetings,” said an insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
During the heated confrontation, Aochamub stepped into the ring and defended his staff against Kaapanda tongue-lashing, claiming his reporters were working under very strenuous and limiting circumstances in a vast region.
Aochamub, it is alleged, pointed out to the minister that while all regional offices are each given two cameras to operate with, unlike other branches, the Oshakati newsroom is expected to cover five regions with those two cameras.
“(Aochamub) informed the minister that he is aware of complaints from regional councils that we do not cover all their events, but he also blamed Government for taking us hostage by hosting long events that drag on the entire day. He said such events meant we only submit one story a day and miss other equally important events,” added the source.
The DG allegedly put Shiimbi back in line and pointed out that the newsroom has diary sessions with the head office via conference link every morning, and as such, where not required to also attend her meetings or report to her.
Kaapanda, visibly annoyed by Aoachamub’s stance on the matter, told the DG he cannot “stand for someone defending lazy people when he is the one who has to defend the budget in Parliament” and abruptly ended the meeting before walking out.
When approached for comment, Aochamub refused to go into the details of the meeting, saying it was an ‘internal issue that he is not comfortable discussing with the media’.
“The most I can tell you right now is that yes, I did attend a meeting on Saturday with the minister and staff members, although not all of them. This was merely one of many meetings to come,” said Aochamub. Kaapanda, on the other hand, was not as diplomatic and said a poor performance rating by the public on the services of the national broadcaster can not be treated as an ‘internal issue’.
“Yes, it is true. I, however, did not accuse them of not respecting authority. That is not true.
I called in the meeting to convey the feeling of the region, that the NBC is not attending and covering events in the region as is expected of them. That is the issue I wanted to raise,” he said.
“If they say they are doing their jobs, then why am I getting a lot of complaints from the public? If the public is not happy with our performance, then we cannot say we are doing a good job.”
The outspoken minister said as Government, he is sensitive to public opinion and with the number of phone calls he has been receiving on NBC Oshakati office he could no longer ignore the issue.
“We don’t want to fool ourselves. I didn’t need them to deny what was obvious; I just needed them to give me suggestions on how we can improve.”