November 3, 2004

Opposition reproaches state TV of bias

Five opposition parties have declared that the vote will not be free and fair because of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation's bias in the allocation of radio airtime. The Congress of Democrats, DTA of Namibia, Namibia Movement for Democratic Change and the South West Africa National Union (Swanu) have withdrawn from the NBC's Election Forum. They accuse the national broadcaster of advancing the interest of the ruling Swapo Party. They said they would also be joined by the National Unity Democratic Organisation. The parties claim that the NBC arranged the campaign programme in such a way that all opposition parties would be left with no airtime on national radio for the last 10 days before the elections. Monitor Action Group and the Republican Party were silent on the NBC ban.
"The NBC is actually a Nujoma Broadcasting Corporation and gives SWAPO too much exposure and coverage, but it is a public institution paid for by Namibian taxpayers," CoD vice president Nora Schimming-Chase said. Sixty percent of free public service campaign coverage on radio and television is divided proportionally according to party representation in parliament. The remaining 40 percent should be shared equally by all nine political parties taking part in the 15 and 16 November elections. "The playing field must be level for all parties, but the NBC only shows election rallies of SWAPO at length. The DTA is the official opposition, but we get minimal coverage," the DTA secretary general, McHenry Venaani, explained. A minority party, the South West African National Union (SWANU), has instructed its lawyers to take legal action against the NBC. "SWANU only has 13 minutes airtime during the election campaign and SWAPO over 200 minutes - that is unfair," SWANU president Rihupisa Kandanda complained. The proportional airtime principle is laid down in the Communications Commission Act, but the NBC is exempted from it.
Namibia's opposition have complained over the airtime issue in all previous general elections since independence in 1990. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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