Journalists in distress without properly registered union

Stefanus Nashama

The struggle to register the Namibia Media Professionals Union (NAMPU) over the past three years is reportedly having profound and distressing impacts on journalists’ lives in Namibia, according to Acting Secretary-General Jemima Beukes.

She conveyed these concerns in a statement released over the weekend.

Beukes stated that without official registration, NAMPU is hindered in its ability to intervene effectively in the numerous challenges confronting the media industry, particularly those affecting journalists.

“As it stands, all the Union can do is write letters of demand, given it has yet to secure official registration with the office of the labour commissioner. This exacerbates existing industry challenges and leaves journalists vulnerable to exploitation and abuse,” she said.

According to Beukes, media supervisors are capitalizing on this state of affairs at the expense of journalists’ welfare, paying them meagre salaries.

“Many journalists lack access to decent salaries or medical aid, leading to stressful situations that also jeopardize their jobs. Some newsrooms have even unofficially banned leave, intensifying the stress,” she stated.

She stressed that such problems are a significant concern for the Union, yet its ability to legally address these issues is contingent upon its registration.

Beukes noted that the absence of formal agreements is undermining job security and employment rights, with many journalists and media workers operating without contracts, sometimes receiving incomplete salaries late.

The Acting Secretary-General also alleged the prevalence of sexual harassment in newsrooms, with female reporters being exploited under the guise of promises of permanent employment.

“NAMPU takes growing allegations of sexual abuse at leading media houses very seriously. This exploitative environment not only harms individuals but also tarnishes the integrity of the journalism profession,” she said.

Currently, NAMPU lacks legal standing to confront seemingly untouchable employers, prompting its ongoing fight for registration to hold employers accountable for injustices in media houses.

With 78 registered members and counting, Beukes asserted the growing interest of journalists in being represented by NAMPU.

She revealed that a recent informal study by NAMPU disclosed alarming trends, with many journalists grappling with severe mental health afflictions.

“The immense pressures from media convergence have taken a toll, with approximately 80 percent of journalists resorting to substances, drugs, or medication to cope,” she stated. Given the registration challenges, NAMPU has sought assistance from international bodies.

“NAMPU has approached the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and is currently engaging them to lend their support and expertise,” she conveyed.
Labour Commissioner Henri Kassen clarified that the Constitution submitted by NAMPU does not meet the registration requirements per the Labour Act, Act 11 of 2007 and has advised NAMPU to review the submitted Constitution.

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