MEDIA reform in the coming years needs to focus on the future of public broadcasting in Namibia and legislation on access to information, writes Nangula Shejavali in The Namibian.

This was one of the findings of the Namibian edition of the 2009 African Media Barometer (AMB) report.

It says although Namibia ranks higher than many other countries in terms of media freedom and has performed better than 2007 when the last report was done, much still remains to be done.

The report scores Namibia in four categories.

These are: (1) Freedom of expression, including freedom of the media, is effectively protected and promoted – with a score of 3.2/5; (2) The media landscape is characterised by diversity, independence and sustainability – which scored 2.7/5; (3) Broadcasting regulation is transparent and independent, the state broadcaster is transformed into a truly public broadcaster – with the lowest score of 2.2/5; and (4) The media practise high levels of professional standards – which scored 3.0/5.

Many of the negative developments highlighted this year had to do with the rhetoric and activity surrounding the upcoming elections.

Outlining the findings of this year's report, Clement Daniels – lawyer, Media Ombudsman and one of the nine panellists who contributed to the AMB – said one of the major negative developments in the media landscape this year was a lack of tolerance of opposition views.

"This manifests in hate speech, stigmatisation and inciteful rhetoric."

He also noted "the increase in hostility on the part of the Government and ruling party towards the media (which became more pronounced during the election campaign period), evident in attacks on freedom of expression, for example suspending the NBC Chat Show."

Another contentious issue was the limited independence of State media.

The AMB report said the apparent increase in editorial interference at State media houses, as well as political appointments at the Namibia Communications Commission and in State media, were clearly negative developments.

Earlier this week, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) reported that on the NBC television news, in the week of November 6 to 12, the Swapo Party took up 83 per cent of party coverage, while the country's remaining parties had to share the remaining 17 per cent. Most of them got no coverage at all.

Speaking at the launch of the AMB report yesterday, Misa Strategy Development and Projects Manager Zoë Titus said given the key role of the media in elections, there is a need to reform State media.

"It must be emphasised that the public media – especially the NBC – are State institutions, hence owned by the people of Namibia in their diversity. This diversity also means diversity in political, regions, racial and economic status," Titus said.

Click here to read the full report, posted on The Namibian's website.