1 February 2013

Namibia: Freelance Journalist Harassed for Information

A FREELANCE journalist for The Namibian at Khorixas, Clemans Miyanicwe, was yesterday taken to the police station in the town in an apparent attempt to force him to disclose the name of a source he had quoted in a report on drought relief food being sold in the area.

Miyanicwe was picked up from an internet cafe yesterday afternoon by police accompanied by Kunene Regional Council technical director Jeremiah Kava, and taken to the police station where he was held for more than half an hour before he was allowed to go.

In his story 'Drought relief food sale investigated' published on January 28, Miyanicwe quoted a local businessman who confirmed that he had been offered drought relief maize meal, but refused to take the offer.

On January 29, the Office of the Prime Minister instructed the Kunene Regional Council to investigate the claims made in the article, and it was presumably on that basis that the council, alongside the police, decided to press Miyanicwe for the name of the businessman who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Miyanicwe refused to divulge the name of his source, which is in accordance with the Namibian media code of ethics.

Kunene police Commissioner Mandume Shifonono yesterday denied that Miyanicwe was in the custody of the police.

"He is not in the hands of the police. The officials of the regional council had taken him to the police station. I told the police [at the Khorixas police station] to tell the people [from the regional office] to go away from the station," said Shifonono.

But when asked why Miyanicwe was taken to the police office, a police officer there said: "We have the procedure that if a person is doing something wrong, he is taken to the police station."

The officer could not say what Miyanicwe had "done wrong" when pressed for an answer.

Asked why Miyanicwe was taken to the police station, Kunene Regional Council director Kava said: "We need that information to complete our investigation. We went to the police to request from him the name, but he has been released."

Kava denied that Miyanicwe was "in the hands" of the regional council, only saying: "In what car did we drive to the police station?" He said Miyanicwe was driven to the police station in a police vehicle.

Miyanicwe was immediately released after The Namibian's legal representative Elise Angula called the police station to demand the grounds on which Miyanicwe was being held.

"This was a clear abuse of powers by police and government officials. How can the media fulfil its role as a watchdog if, as in the case of our correspondent, reporters get detained by the police?" said The Namibian's editor, Tangeni Amupadhi. "We will take up this matter to make sure that this is not repeated. We should not have to call in the assistance of a lawyer."

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