25 April 2019

Namibia: Justice Warns About National Symbols Use

THE Ministry of Justice on Tuesday issued a statement reminding Namibians of the regulations on the use and display of national symbols such as the national flag and coat of arms, as per the recently instated National Symbols of the Republic of Namibia Act that was released in December 2018.

The statement was made via social media.

The act prescribes that the national flag and national coat of arms "or any depictions so closely resembling a national symbol, in a manner likely to cause confusion and mislead someone to attribute any trade, business, profession or occupation or any mark or descriptionto the Namibian government or state" may not be used without prior approval from the president.

Ministry of Justice public relations officer Simon Idipo said that the act does not prohibit the use of the national flag or coat of arms in their entirety, but rather that the motivation of the act is to protect their use.

"[It's] to protect the use of the national symbols and to create a clear distinction between the government and state of the symbols [compared to] private use of the symbols or portions thereof," he wrote in response to The Namibian's queries.

Idipo said the ministry enacted the legislation before the symbols are misused or copyrighted by other entities.

Furthermore, he explained that the 31 May deadline to apply for permission to use these symbols only applies to existing uses of the symbols.

"Any new uses will be gazetted on a case-by-case basis and will all be captured on a database maintained by the ministry," he said. Human rights lawyer Norman Tjombe said that the law would cause an overly complicated process of applying for permission. He noted that the flag is so commonly used as stickers, on cars or when the national football team is playing that it would only overburden the president.

"That is the most beautiful display of national pride, and that should be encouraged," he said, questioning the absurdity of having to apply to use the flag in those circumstances.

Furthermore, he noted that prior permission from the Presidency is only required when the use of the national symbols is likely to confuse connection with a trade, business or profession.

"The law itself is confusing," he said.

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