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Delays in registering media union leave journalists vulnerable

The Namibia Media Professionals Union (Nampu) says the delayed registration of the union is causing its members distress, leaving them vulnerable to unfair labour practices.

This was said by Nampu’s acting secretary-general, Jemima Beukes, in a statement issued on Sunday.

Beukes says the union has been struggling to be registered by the Office of the Labour Commissioner for the past three years.

“The prolonged struggle to register Nampu over the last three years has had a profound and distressing impact on the lives of journalists in Namibia,” she says.

She says the union has observed media bosses enjoying the status quo of the union and referring to it as a “briefcase union”.

Beukes says journalists who are already grappling with low wages, mainly foreign nationals who are often exploited as cheap labour, have been subjected to further abuse.

“These journalists have reported that they face threats from politicians and some supervisors who use their connections to political leaders to intimidate and hinder critical reporting.

“Such actions undermine the principles of a free and independent press,” she says.

Beukes says leading newspapers, journalists, and media workers have been toiling without contracts for years.

“The absence of formal agreements hampers job security and employment rights. Then we have a mountain heap of sexual harassment in newsrooms – interns, and junior reporters exploited with the promise of permanent employment,” she says.

In response to the statement, Editors Forum of Namibia (EFN) secretary general Selma Ikela yesterday said the forum needs to study the allegations before commenting on them.

She, however, added: “The EFN deals with freedom of expression and freedom of the media – not labour matters.”

In a letter sent to Nampu by labour commissioner Henri Kassen on 11 November 2022, the union was referred to the Constitution for revision and redrafting with regards to registration.

“Following our review of the resubmission of your constitution for registration, it was found that the constitution still did not comply with the requirements under Sections 53 and 57 of the Labour Act of 2007,” the letter reads.

Kassen said the labour commissioner does not wish to reject or decline the registration of Nampu, and referred to the Constitution for appropriate revision and redrafting.

Kassen said yesterday that he had retired and referred The Namibian to Kyllikki Sihlahla, the deputy director in the Office of the Labour Commissioner.

Sihlahla said she would be able to comment today.