12 April 2019

Namibia: Spy Service Loses Appeal Over Attempt to Suppress Article

The Namibia Central Intelligence Service and Namibia's government have lost their appeal against a High Court judgement in which their attempt to stop the publication of an article about alleged misuse of public funds by the spy service was dismissed last year.

In a judgement delivered in the Supreme Court today (Friday), deputy chief justice Petrus Damaseb found that the government and director general of the NCIS failed to prove that information that the weekly newspaper The Patriot planned to publish last year had been obtained illegally or that the information was about secret places or a matter of national security. Having failed to prove that, the government and director general of the NCIS did not make out a case for them to be granted an order prohibiting the publication of an article that The Patriot had in the pipeline in April last year, the deputy chief justice found.

The article that NCIS director general Philemon Malima and the government tried to keep from being published dealt with the government's acquisition of two farms and a house that were alleged to have ended up being used by former members of the spy agency, and with questionable donations of N$1,1 million that an association of former spy service members received from the NCIS.

In the Supreme Court's judgement on the appeal that the government and NCIS chief lodged against the High Court's decision not to stop the publication of The Patriot's article, deputy chief justice Damaseb said the court did not agree with the government's argument that a court did not have the power to override the government and NCIS' designation of something as secret and as a matter of national security.

The courts would have a duty to protect secret governmental information if a proper case had been made out to keep such material confidential, but it was contrary to the values of an open and democratic society based on the rule of law to suggest that matters of national security could not be scrutinised by the courts, judge Damaseb stated.

The appeal of the government and NCIS director general was dismissed with an order that they should carry The Patriot's legal costs.

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