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Women's retreat empowers

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THE Twapewa Kadhikwa Annual Women's Retreat weekend, which aimed to activate the faith of women, as well as renew their mindsets for a more productive and prosperous future, will be remembered by those who attended as a life changer.


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Average house prices edge up

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AT the end of March this year, the average price of a house in Namibia was N$1,2 million – about N$100 000 more than during the same time last year.


Namibians show interest in US trade

Elijah Mukubonda

SEVERAL Namibian entrepreneurs have shown interest in pursuing business opportunities in the United States after making contacts at the Namibia-US trade summit held in Namibia early this month.


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      The Media, Informed Opinion and Free, Prior and Informed Consent

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      MEDIA reports on oil exploration activities in Namibia are encountered almost daily. But we have to ask if these media reports are giving the public the full story.

      Following the recent announcement by two major global oil players that they have made significant discoveries of oil off Namibia's shores, deputy prime minister and minister of international relations and cooperation Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah warned about the potential “resource curse”.
      The term “resource curse” describes the significant negative social, economic and political impacts unique to countries rich in oil, gas and minerals. Many resource-rich countries have failed to cope with their new-found wealth, with the discovery of valuable natural resources leading to violent conflict, the deterioration of good governance, increased corruption, and ecological destruction, instead of improved living standards for the nation's citizens.
      Furthermore, history shows that increased economic development in a specific sector may be accompanied by a decline in other sectors.
      The possibility of the “resource curse” is not readily mentioned by the operating oil companies, if at all.
      Yet, it is a common phenomenon when it comes to the mining of oil, gas and minerals all over the world.
      One wonders why this potential problem has not been mentioned by local media houses.
      FULL AND ACCURATE INFORMATION
      With regard to oil exploration activities, public access to information and the requirement of public consultation is provided for in the Environmental Management Act 7 of 2007 and its accompanying regulations. These requirements may offer the best opportunity for people and communities to assert their environmental rights before an oil project is initiated or developed.
      The legislation sets out the activities which require an environmental clearance certificate issued by the environmental commissioner before they can proceed.
      The procedure for obtaining a clearance certificate includes a process to identify the possible negative social and environmental impacts of the proposed activity. Informing the affected parties is crucial in this process.
      This is particularly important for communities in communal areas, indigenous populations and marginalised communities who may lack access to other sources of information about the proposed project.
      In international circles this process is referred to as FPIC: free, prior and informed consent.
      The right to the free, prior and informed consent from affected parties is premised on the availability of all necessary information.
      Relevant information must be provided by the developer, and, in line with its mandate to inform the public, the media.
      The role of the media is very important, since the potential developer is likely to try to present the proposed project in the best possible light, without emphasising the possible detriments.
      FREE AND INDEPENDENT MEDIA
      So the information necessary to satisfy the FPIC principle should be provided not only by stakeholders, but should also be delivered by the media.
      The media can play an important role by bringing up new information and putting the spotlight on different angles of the issues at stake. This makes the media a significant supporting pillar for the rule of law.
      Namibia has played a key role in the development of a free press.
      But the power of a free media comes with the responsibility to fulfil its tasks ethically in a vibrant democracy.
      Freedom of the press militates against regulation by the state.
      To raise the standards of Namibia's journalism without state interference, the media ombudsman and the Editors' Forum of Namibia have set up a self-regulatory code.
      Among other rules, the code points out and regulates the distinction between editorial and news content. The code contains a section on 'Independence and conflicts of interest', which obligates the media to ensure that commercial, political, personal or other non-professional considerations do not influence or slant reporting.
      FAKE NEWS AND ADVERTORIALS
      Especially in cases where there are ongoing public debates around major projects like mining or drilling, compliance with these rules is vital.
      Public debate must not be manipulated by a lack of distinction between journalistic information and advertisement.
      Advertisements presented as editorial content – sometimes called advertorials – are nothing but deception. And yet, when it comes to the current debate around Namibia's oil resources, we have seen local media platforms present this kind of 'advertorial'.
      Media manipulation in favour of one of the financially strong stakeholders not only has the potential to deform the current debates about exploitation of Namibia's natural resources, but may also impact the resulting legal processes by interfering with the principle of free, prior and informed consent.
      Such manipulation also undermines the spirit of the Windhoek Declaration.
      A responsible, self-regulated media that adheres to its own code of conduct is crucial for a well-functioning democracy.
      – This article was made possible by support from Bread for the World.


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