No protocol observed

05 September 2014

When somebody asks me to think of the most scandalous thing I have ever witnessed or encountered, unlike most people I don’t have to think long and hard. In fact, my response would be “you mean today?”

A day in the life of a journalist is anything, but dull and for all the speeches one hears that begin with all protocol observed, one encounters the equivalent amount of no protocol.

The irony is that everyone expects journalists to observe the highest level of ethics in their work and follow the correct procedures, but people seldom, if ever, accord us the same treatment.

Just recently members of a new political party were harassing one of my colleagues, following an article she had written about an event of theirs that she had attended.

True to form, the complaints had very little to no substance and the numerous phone calls she had to entertain over the weekend were mainly the rantings of bruised politicians’ egos.

As much as this encounter left my poor colleague in utter disbelief about how certain politicians choose to conduct themselves, her experience was all too familiar because I’m often at the receiving end of dishonourable behaviour from our ‘honourables’.

Case in point, some months back on a Friday morning I received a phone call from a minister, who was livid (to say the least) about a story I had written involving  his ministry. The honourable, who I will refrain from mentioning, proceeded to inform me that I am a mere tool others use to further their agendas.

He asked me what I had against him, and reminded me that he too is a father and husband to somebody and then the climax.....wait for it....

“Why Don’t You Write About Your Mother,” the honourable yelled.

Ladies and gentlemen, besides the fact that the country has not entrusted my mother with public funds and she is therefore not accountable to the Namibian people in that regard, can someone explain to me why my mother was dragged into the matter.

As you can tell, emotions were flying all over the place and the 20 minute conversation that felt like two hours, was a true test not only of patience, but the ability to recognise which battles are worth fighting and which are not.

That my good people is what I refer to as No Protocol Observed!

I am sure my colleagues from the various media institutions around the country can share similar tales or nightmares of having to endure verbal attacks from national leaders.

This type of conduct by senior figures in society is just unacceptable along with the notion that journalists have personal vendettas or are out to destroy the image of certain personalities.

Let’s all take a deep breath and try to think rationally. I know Namibia does not have a very large population, but even so, do you think it’s possible for one person to have a personal vendetta against everyone they write about?

In case you are unsure, the answer is no. I did not wake up one morning and decide that it’s time to write about a certain person or company in the hope that I could ‘destroy them.’

In a democratic society, the media, also known as the fourth estate, serve the function of watchdogs, and they are supposed to act as the voice of the voiceless, and journalists cannot do their work effectively if they prioritise maintaining inflated egos.

You have chosen to be a servant of the people, which is why people chose you as their elected representative, and therefore we have to hold you to account and surely this should not come as a surprise to you.

I love how politicians will come down on journalists, and then use the very same media to broadcast their scathing attacks (as we are your link to the nation).

Then they always end the slaughter by saying how much we need each other and that we should strive to work together in order to build our nation.

I think the message is clear, can we just try to observe a bit more protocol when addressing members of the press and use the correct channels to report any grievances we might have.

Before I sign off, I would not have done a good job to say this much on protocol, or the lack thereof, when it comes to the behaviour of certain national leaders and not mention the debacle called the National Assembly.

My goodness! Can members of the National Assembly conduct themselves as the high elected representatives that they are, and remember that the whole country is watching and is often appalled by the proceedings in parliament.

We should all know something is wrong when people tell you that they watch the parliamentary report on TV every day as a source of entertainment because parliament has become a comedy show.

The work of the legislature in my view is the most important function of a government, and one finds it sad that the nation is distracted from the essence of pivotal debates regarding legislation because members of parliament are too busy insulting one another.

The public yearns for lively debates in the National Assembly based on thorough research and knowledge of the subject so that parliamentarians use substantive arguments and can engage in debate in the appropriate manner.

Therefore, my humble request is that our honourables observe protocol not only at the beginning of their prepared speeches, but at every juncture that requires their participation as national leaders.


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