In light of the 21-day lockdown starting on Friday in Khomas and Erongo regions when only essential services will be operating, New Era Publication Corporation (NEPC) CEO Christof Maletsky said whether the media are regarded as essential services or not, they should regard themselves as essential.
Maletsky said the public need to have access to information on the coronavirus outbreak and there is also a need to educate people and disseminate information on the fast-evolving global pandemic that has not spared Namibia and other African countries, with neighbouring South Africa already having a high number of confirmed cases. Maletsky said that those involved in the campaign such as the government and other stakeholders will have to disseminate news and they will need the media to do this.
He said New Era and other media are mediums between readers, the community and government.
“If we shut down, how will government information reach the community? We have to consider that as the foremost core mandate,” stressed Maletsky, who added that New Era will not shut down during the lockdown but will rather scale down on its print run and reduce the newspaper size.
“If the worst comes – as a complete lockdown countrywide –we will have to move (publishing) online and people will access the paper through multi-media,” he said.
He said the lockdown would obviously affect newspaper street sales which translates to less revenue. “Those readers who used to buy on the street wouldn’t want to have that contact any longer, especially in Khomas and Erongo regions where the lockdown was announced. It will affect our street sales and because of that we are re-aligning and re-routing our distribution to outlets.”
Chairperson of the Editors’ Forum of Namibia (EFN) Frank Steffen, who is the editor of Allgemeine Zeitung, also noted that the dissemination of news is essential and not only on radio and the internet. “Many of the printed media have come to the party and issued small booklets, information leaflets on coronavirus. For those who don’t have immediate access to the internet or other mediums, printed information is important to them. Once you have missed the listening opportunity on radio it has passed but that is where the print media comes in – it lasts a lifetime,” he said.
Although the government said only essential services will operate during the lockdown the media is generally not regarded as one.
However, Steffen said the health adviser in the Office of the Presidency Dr Bernard Haufiku is likely to confirm that the media is recognised as a crucial service. He said Haufiku has indicated that already but it is just that he (Steffen) does not have it in writing. Therefore, Steffen said, EFN is busy sending out invitations for a small gathering where they will raise their concerns and Haufiku will then likely confirm the crucial aspect of the media.
Namibian Sun editor Toivo Ndjebela told New Era that they would definitely continue to print during the lockdown.
“We see ourselves as an enabling service and the media in general – meaning that we might not be classified as essential service but the media is an important catalyst in the fight against coronavirus, especially in light of fake news doing the rounds on social media. The traditional media will be key in verifying facts and providing what is true,” he said. Some street vendors along Independence Avenue in the central business district (CBD) expressed the fear of loss of income during the lockdown. A street vendor, Vaino Kuutondokwa, who has been selling newspapers for 23 years, said since cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Windhoek business has gone down. “It will be difficult as 21 days (lockdown) is long. I have water, electricity to pay and a wife and children to provide for,” said Kuutondokwa, a resident of Havana informal settlement.
2020-03-26 07:37:45 2 days ago