Namibia has no law on access to info: AMB

06 Aug 2015 14:40pm
WINDHOEK, 06 AUG (NAMPA) – There is no law in Namibia that guarantees the protection of whistle-blowers or that protects journalists from having to disclose their sources in court.
This information is contained in a booklet developed and published by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in collaboration with the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)’s Namibia chapter.
The 68-page booklet titled 'African Media Barometer - Namibia 2015’ was launched here on Wednesday.
“Although freedom of expression - including freedom of the press and other media - is guaranteed in Article 21 (of the Namibian Constitution), this right is hamstrung by laws that remain on the country's Statute Books 25 years after independence; new regulations that hinder the practice and the absence of certain laws,” reads the booklet.
It says this continued state of affairs has the potential of trumping Namibia's high press freedom ranking.
Namibia is ranked first in Sub-Saharan Africa and 17th in the world according to the World Press Freedom Index, and first in Africa according to Freedom House.
The study further said the country still has no law that ensures citizens, media houses and media practitioners have access to public information.
According to the booklet, Namibia was again this year given a very low ranking (one out of 10) in relation to access to information, as it stands since 19 September 2011.
The booklet said the introduction of new regulations to the country's Research Act of 2004 can only be seen as draconian as it could potentially restrict freedom of thought and academic freedom at all levels of society.
Arguing that the aforesaid regulations are unconstitutional, the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) alongside the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) and the Namibian newspaper are allegedly reported to be in the process of taking the Namibian Government to court over these new regulations after failed consultations with the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture.
According to the booklet, despite these various legal restrictions, Namibians seem to freely express themselves more so when they can do so anonymously, particularly when criticising the government of the ruling Swapo Party.
Social media such as Facebook and Twitter is increasingly providing a platform for Namibians to share their views on a wide range of issues and the media houses are working towards greater convergence with the social media.
On the whole, journalists were found to do a reasonable job in their reporting, displaying some level of fairness and accuracy.
However, the quality of journalism still is not as good as it should be in the country, reads the booklet.
It further stated that civil society organisations need to come to the table and join the media in advocating for media freedom, access to information and essentially freedom of expression and thought.
The African Media Barometer (AMB) is an in-depth and comprehensive description and measurement system for national media environment on the African continent.
Speaking during the launch, MISA Namibia National Director Natasha Tibinyane noted that they ensured that the 12 individuals who assessed the media environment over a two-day period earlier this year represented all relevant stakeholders, namely State-owned and independent media, academia, as well as development and civil society organisations.
A panel discussion moderated by Dr Marius Kudumo allowed for a critical analysis of the AMB’s methodology and results.
Three members of the AMB panel, media ombudsman Clement Daniels; senior producer at the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) Nashilongo Gervasius-Nakale; and Oshili24 Editor Confidence Musariri gave input on some of the AMB’s key points and shared some of their experiences of working in Africa’s top rated media freedom environment.
MISA Regional Director Zoé Titus provided a regional perspective on media freedom and freedom of expression, and how Namibia compares to other SADC-member states.
The panel noted that there is reluctance from government to interfere in issues related to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, and that the country’s independent judiciary could also be a deterrent.
They however called on Government to develop supportive legislation that would enhance media freedom and expression, such as an access to information law.
The decline in professionalism and ethics was also highlighted, and it was agreed that media houses have an obligation to invest in the training of their journalists, and the onus should not rest on training institutions, which are State-funded, to deliver journalists.