The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) was at pains today in stating that the Media Ombudsman’s Complaints Committee was wrong in making a ruling that the public broadcaster was at fault when it aired a talk show programme which discussed the operations of Recon Africa.

In arguing the case of NBC on appeal against the Media Ombudsman’s initial ruling, NBC’s legal team, under instruction of Shikale & Associates and the leadership of Advocate Unanisa Hengari, indicated that the Media Ombudsman Mr. John Nakuta (who was present at the appeal hearing) was wrong in the first place to have accepted the complaint brought against the NBC by Ms Rinaani Musutua who served together with Mr. Nakuta on the Economic and Social Justice Trust.

“The Media Ombudsman should have recused himself from all the decisions pertaining to the complaint from the onset and not have entertained and accepted the complaint seeing that he was in a conflict of interest,” Hengari said.

Hengari also said that the disputed programme was aired on 29 March 2021, and the Media Code of Ethics stipulated that a complaint can only be accepted if it is made not after 30 days from the day of the incident.

“The complaint fell outside of the time limit, and there were no reasonable grounds to accept the complaint.

“The Media Ombudsman processed the complaint without reasonable grounds because he had proximity to the complaint.

“He did not endeavor to seek for a settlement between the parties, as per Clause 3.3 of the Code of Ethics which holds that Ombudsman must hold consultation with parties with the aim to reach agreement or settlement.

“All this shows that he was biased.”

Hengari further said that the Media Ombudsman, Mr. Nakuta, made a statement ‘too late that he was conflicted’.

“He should have not processed or entertained the complaint. Maybe someone else must consider the complaint afresh.”

Hengari also emphasized that the complainants had failed to prove that the ‘Talk of the Nation’ programme was paid for. “There is a principle that the one who alleges must prove what he alleges.”

It was the ‘Talk of the Nation’ programme aired on the NBC television on 29 March 2021 which caused the broadcaster to be dragged before a media complaints committee by two individuals, Ms Rinaani Musutua and Mr. Rob Parker.

Both Musutua and Parker are critics of the operations of Recon Africa, an oil prospecting and drilling company which is doing its operations in the Kavango East Region.

The complainants are also members of the Economic and Social Justice, a non-governmental and pressure group which has expressed great concern over the operations of Recon Africa in the environmentally sensitive Okavango basin.

As a result of the ‘Talk of the Nation’ programme, Ms Musutua and Mr. Parker dragged the NBC to the Media Ombudsman, claiming that the programme was a paid-for content which was misleadingly presented as a ‘news’ item.

The complainants stated that by airing the programme the NBC failed to live up to the media ethics as specified in the Media Code of Conduct, in that the broadcaster refused to include people with opposing views to the panel of the programme “that was discussing such a controversial issue and issue of public importance”.

After a hearing that took place on 19 May 2022, chaired by Retired Major General James Tjivikua, the Media Complaints Committee ruled on 27 June 2022 that indeed the NBC had violated the Media Code of Conduct’s clause 22.1 which says:

“In presenting a programme in which a controversial issue of public importance is discussed, a broadcaster must make reasonable efforts to fairly present opposing points of view either in the same programme or in a subsequent programme forming part of the same series of programmes presented within reasonable period of time of the original broadcast and within substantially the same time slot.”

In responding to NBC’s appeal grounds, Musutua and Parker (who was present virtually) said that the Media Complaints Committee was right in coming to a conclusion that the NBC had breached the Code of Ethics.

“NBC failed to objectively tell the story by presenting the diversity of voices on the matter. The episode does not meet standard journalism,” Musuatua said.

Parker stated that NBC had on many occasions broadcasted paid-for content about Recon Africa, which they disguised as news.

After three hours of the appeal hearing, the chairperson of the Media Appeals Committee, Mr. Andre Le Roux, said that within 14 days a ruling would be communicated to the parties.

Mr. Ernst Venzke was the only other member on the appeals panel, while the third appeal panelist, Mr. Johannes Shikondi, who was supposed to appear virtually, did not show up.

In the photo: The appeal hearing took place at the Goethe Centre in Windhoek.