Namibian govt ad ban complicates population census

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The Namibian / The Namibian, 21 June - The second population census in an independent Namibia will not be advertised in any newspaper in a move that appears to be a compromise following a Cabinet ban on business dealings with the independent newspaper 'The Namibian'.

The latest National Planning Commission (NPC) decision not to advertise in all newspapers contradicts documents it had issued earlier saying "adverts would be placed in newspapers with adherence to Government directives", which meant no adverts would be placed in the country's biggest newspaper.

The Namibian understands the about-turn came after pressure from foreign donors who expressed concern about how the advertisement ban would affect an ambitious campaign to get people interested in the census.

Publicity in the print media about the census, which will kick off in less than three months, will now depend largely on the goodwill of newspaper editors. But Government will pay for advertisements on radio and television stations, a spokesman for the NPC explained yesterday.

'Lack of money'
Michael Kafidi, the NPC Media Liaison Officer, said the awareness strategy that excluded advertising in newspapers was based on lack of money and after considering what maximum publicity could be gained by placing news reports instead of adverts.

- We may come to a point where we would have to review the situation, said Kafidi. "But for the time being the strategy is to get co-operation from the [print] media without having to advertise."

He claims the "strategy" not to advertise in all media, and not only in The Namibian, was decided more than six months ago. Cabinet barred Government from buying advertising space in the newspaper because of its "unwarranted criticism" of Government policies.

Kafidi said that during discussions aimed at deciding on the awareness campaign it was agreed that the Census Office, as part of Government and "funded with taxpayers' money, was answerable to the executive. "We just have to tow the line. We cannot advertise [in The Namibian]."

The NPC spokesman said the decision not to advertise in newspapers would not adversely affect awareness. "I'm not sure it will affect the awareness campaign to the extent that editors would not run [news stories about census]," said Kafidi.

The counting begins on 27 August to 8 September. About 5,000 people will be recruited to conduct the survey that is expected to provide the country with statistics about the population, people's socioeconomic status, access to basic amenities such as water and housing, education and other information necessary for planning.

Kafidi maintained he was unaware that some donors have expressed misgivings about Cabinet's advertising ban. The European Union, while commenting about "threats and verbal attacks" against minorities as well as xenophobic statements from top Government leaders, also "expressed concern" about the Government ban on advertising in the independent media.

It is believed similar concerns were expressed with regard to the census but had fallen away after the NPC explained it would not advertise at all in the print media.

The entire census process is expected to cost N$ 70 million, according to Kafidi. The Swedish government will make the largest donation of N$ 15 million which will pay for three experts to assist with counting, geographical information systems and data processing over four years.

The United Kingdom has given N$ 846,000 to pay for training and "sensitisation" campaigns. Spain and Japan have chipped in with motor vehicles for the census project, while France has given N$ 500,000.

By Tangeni Amupadhi (The Namibian)

The Namibia /

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