Namibia renews its commitment to press freedom

President Nangolo Mbumba has assured that the government will continue to defend and promote press freedom as a responsible and indispensable part of the country’s governance architecture.

As the world marks World Press Freedom Day today, this year’s theme is ‘A press for the planet: protecting journalists and scientists in defense of the environment’.

“On this day, we also remind journalists to live according to the ethics of an important profession in the democratic life of our country. As a nation, we made this commitment in the Constitution based on our historical experiences, in which the fundamental rights and freedoms of many Namibians were denied. The government’s commitment to press freedom is valued and we will continue to live by the law,” Mbumba said.

He added: “Our climate is facing an emergency, with recurring droughts and floods affecting millions of lives and causing the destruction of infrastructure. In line with the theme of World Press Freedom Day 2024, I encourage journalists to exercise their right to educate and inform to promote the protection of the environment, including the prosperity and development of the people of Namibia.”

Toivo Ndjebela, editor of the Namibian Sun, said New era Yesterday there are many issues that need to be taken into account, including a look at the global perspective, continental classification and the well-being of journalists.

“Globally, we have a crisis. Look at the situation in places like Gaza, where journalists are being massacred left, right and center with no repercussions for anyone. There were journalists arrested last year in Botswana, an editor and his senior journalists; Those are some of the images from a global perspective,” said the newspaper’s editor-in-chief. Namibian suna newspaper of the Namibia Media Holdings group.

Ndjebela added: “At home, the suspension of Johnathan Beukes, New era editor-in-chief last year, left a mark on press freedom in our country. He was not suspended for administrative reasons; “He was suspended for the work he did as a journalist.”

He added that in terms of the press freedom ranking, if Namibia were to go down, it would attribute a lower ranking to Beukes’ suspension.

At the time of going to print, this year’s Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index had not yet been released.

The journalist admitted that, apart from that suspension, Namibia has had a relatively good year when it comes to practicing journalism.

Ndjebela was hopeful about the changes and impact that the official implementation of the Access to Information Bill would have on the trade.

“Talks on establishing the Information Commission office now would put into practice all the needs of the industry. Once that office is up and running, we hope and pray that it plays a neural/professional role. The challenge here is that it appears to be a state agency per se, and what you want is as neutral an entity as possible, almost like the media ombudsman we have now. But I am not slandering before things get underway,” he stated.

Media ombudsman John Nakuta agrees with Ndjebela on the impact Beukes’ suspension could have, saying what sets the country apart is that the government has refrained from trying to impose restrictions or censorship on the media. communication and journalists.

He added that public bodies are exercising their powers in a way that does not hinder media operations, which further sets them apart.

Nakuta said: “It’s not that we don’t have problems or issues. Last year we witnessed the suspension of the newspaper’s editor-in-chief New era newspaper, apparently for having written a critical editorial under the title “No confidence in the secret judiciary.” After reading this editorial, I did not find anything offensive or in violation of the Namibian Code of Ethics and Media Code. It appears, however, that the editorial upset some people, who chose not to lodge complaints with the Media Ombudsman’s office.”

The legal expert noted that Beukes’ suspension is problematic for several reasons and suspects it may affect Namibia’s qualification this year.

Nakuta said that if challenges persist, at the top of his list would be self-censorship, especially for journalists working for state-funded media outlets.

“The quality of the reports is another matter. So is the clear lack of research and the sloppy, sensational journalism that too often creeps in. These are some of the internal threats or challenges to press freedom in Namibia,” Nakuta said.

Veteran journalist Kae Matundu Tjiparuro said the quality of journalism has changed over the years due to the level of education received compared to today.

He stated: “In those years, quite a few journalists were educated in one discipline or another. Secondly, in terms of basic education, few were educated. This is different from what happens today. Another thing that distinguishes the journalists of yesteryear is that they joined the profession out of passion. We weren’t doing it for money. We did it for the passion of the profession and committed to changing society.”

“We have a role to play as agents of change without being lapdogs for governments.

The government is there to make the work environment conducive, nothing more,” said the retired journalist.

He attributes good governance to Namibia’s Press Freedom Index ranking, adding that there is no need for the government to receive a pat on the back.

“In all these settings, praise and all that, you never hear the thanks of the journalists. It is always portrayed thanks to good government. Isn’t it also thanks to the good journalism of media professionals? she questioned.

Namibia Media Trust director Zoe Titus said New era The biggest challenge is the financial viability of the newsrooms.

“That requires that there be a broader understanding of the important role that the media plays in our society, and that the public and private sectors realize that the media is fundamental to our democracy and that, fundamentally, freedom of the press is good for companies and fundamental. to the health of democracy,” he stated.

Titus added that without this, the media will not survive, and further called on stakeholders to support the media, especially during this election year.

“All Namibians need the media to perform at its best, and that can only happen if they are supported to do so.

The media diligently report on issues of public interest, despite the challenges they face,” Titus highlighted.

The media professional firmly believes in media self-regulation and defends it, as it is the best form of regulation for the media.

He added: “We need to look closely at the media code of conduct, update it and see if it is fit for purpose, particularly in the context of a rapidly growing technology.”

He said it is crucial for media outlets to formulate and fully implement editorial policies that reflect changes in the sector.

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