Minister concerned about Nam's media freedom ranking

26 Feb 2014 19:20pm
WINDHOEK, 26 FEB (NAMPA) - Although Namibia is ranked number one in Africa in terms of media freedom, in world rankings the country has dropped two places and is now at number 22 due to cases of defamation brought to court over the last few years.
The Minister of Information, Communication and Technology, Joel Kaapanda expressed concern about this situation when media ombudsman Clement Daniels paid a courtesy visit to his office in Windhoek on Wednesday.
The meeting with the ombudsman was aimed at exchanging views on how best the two institutions can promote media freedom and ethical reporting in order for members of the media to adhere to the media code of ethics.
“Some media houses were sued by our citizens because of the defamatory articles they had been writing about those individuals. Stories were written about those individuals without any verification thus as a result, they felt aggrieved,” the minister stated.
He said this failure to verify stories is a divergence from the media code of conduct.
“I think you should continue urging journalists to refrain from writing what is regarded as defamatory as the story is not truthful because somebody will feel hurt and resort to taking the case to court,” Kaapanda told Daniels.
He said Government will however continue to maintain a conducive environment for the media to operate unhindered in, as well as a democratic culture of freedom of expression and association.
Amongst other cases, in January this year the High Court ordered the owner of the weekly publication Informanté, Trustco Group International, and the newspaper's former editor, Max Hamata, to pay Cabinet member Erkki Nghimtina N.dollars 60 000 as compensation over an article that was published in the 22 to 28 July 2010 edition of Informanté.
Nghimtina was accused of having misused his position to get his mother-in-law's house connected to the rural electricity grid.
Hamata, who is currently the editor of Confidente, was also fined to pay businessman Desmond Amunyela N.dollars 50 000 as part of a settlement reached in a defamation case in the Windhoek High Court last month.
On his part Daniels said he fully agrees with the sentiments the minister expressed, adding that is it commendable that an environment has been created in Namibia for journalists to do their work in.
“It is however unfortunate that in any country, people will take the media to court for defamation and that is also an area where the rights within our Constitution are being tested to see whether we do adhere to the principles of the Constitution,” he said.
Daniels said important to note is that one or two journalists or editors were singled out in the litigation, meaning that the majority of journalists and media houses are adhering to the media code of ethics and act in a professional manner.
He further stated that he agrees that the country does not want litigation in this regard, adding that journalists should adhere to the ethical standards as set out in the media code of ethics.