No consensus on Bill between Tweya and journalists

05 Sep 2016 20:30pm
WINDHOEK, 05 SEP (NAMPA) – Minister of Information and Communication Technology Tjekero Tweya on Monday could not reach consensus with journalists on the practicality of the Access to Information Bill, expected to be tabled in Parliament towards the end of this year.
Journalists who attended a media conference wanted to find out from the minister how they will access information meant for the public.
They also wanted to know whether with the draft Bill, the government is trying to regulate the media or censor the media in their reporting.
In his response, Tweya said the Bill is aimed at giving every individual the right to seek, access and receive information from public or private bodies that perform public functions.
“To have access to information does not mean control or punish media,” he stated.
He reminded the journalists that the Bill is a reinforcement and will give tangible meaning to Article 21 of Namibia’s Constitution, which stipulates that all persons shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media.
Tweya then issued a cautionary note of consequences against those who might prepare themselves to violate media ethics to access information meant for the public.
He urged the media to be cautious in their reporting to avoid, among others, inciting violence.
Journalists wanted to know whether the minister want them to leave out facts in their reporting that he said might cause crises.
Tweya then just cautioned reporters to refrain from slanderous reporting that could lead to inciting violence or loss of an opportunity to effectively and purposefully inform members of society.
He said slanderous reporting and “unprogressive tendencies” should not be used as tools by print and electronic media to get into the market.
“People the world over are yearning for peace, which they do not have. We have peace, let us guard it. Let us reject calls by some members of the society who are still worshiping tribalism and racism,” he said.
One of the reporters asked “Should we leave out some truthful information because it might cause a crisis?”, to which Tweya responded “Whenever you report, you should inform and educate and if it is incitement is up to your judgement. What I am saying is we have peace, and we have to guard it.”
The Bill will provide for a statutory and independent commission to ensure citizens get access to information.
Last week, Tweya was quoted in local media as saying government will regulate and punish the media using an instrument in the draft Access to Information Bill that allows for the formation of a regulatory body.
Once enacted, the Access to Information Bill will give every individual the right to seek, access and receive information from public or private bodies that perform public functions.
There is currently no law that guarantees free access to information on issues of significant public interest in Namibia.