Namibia: Tweya's Media Attack Draws Condemnation

15 November 2019

The Namibia Media Trust's executive chairperson Gwen Lister has condemned the remarks made by trade minister Tjekero Tweya, in which he called journalists "flies".

His remarks were made on Tuesday at the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between global company DP World and !Nara Namib Free Economic Industrial Zone.

The minister stressed that the things journalists write about are the reasons behind the slow development and lack of investments in the country.

"It is not going to be easy, but let us stay focused, and there will be a lot of 'flies' making noise here because they are also looking for something, but don't concern yourselves with those noises (sic)... ," he said.

Denouncing these comments, Lister said in her press release issued yesterday that the Namibia Media Trust (NMT), which publishes The Namibian, works hard to make sure its journalism is rich in both quality and professionalism, and is invested in raising standards.

"We also believe that the media should always be accountable and open to criticism, which is why NMT, and most media houses in Namibia, support the self-regulatory mechanism put in place by the Editors Forum of Namibia (EFN), which includes an ombudsman to hear and adjudicate grievances against the press," she stated.

She added that the minister's attacks came at a time when investigative journalism in Namibia proved its worth after the article published in The Namibian on Wednesday titled 'Kickback Kings' exposed former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau and former justice minister Sacky Shanghala for allegedly being kingpins in a fishing quota allocation scandal which generated kickbacks of at least N$150 million over four years.

Lister further reminded the government of the important role journalism plays in the country's democracy, adding that it not only speaks truth to power, but also provides citizens with the information they need.

"This is especially relevant at a time of elections, when feelings can run high, and attacks on the media will simply exacerbate tensions," she said.

The executive chairperson added that Tweya should practise self-restraint in his public pronouncements, and to promote, instead of attack, the important role of journalists in society.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, EFN chairperson Frank Steffen also condemned a press release by the Presidency against an earlier editorial by The Namibian.

Steffen said the Presidency's media release dated 9 November disregarded the fact that freedom of speech is a constitutional right that the media are allowed to exercise.

He added that the underlying message of the Presidency's media release was that although they support press freedom, they will only do so as long as the media is told what to do and support everything the government says or does.

"Unfortunately, that seems to be the underlying message in the press release of the Presidency, and it flies directly into the face of media freedom and freedom of expression, as embodied in the Namibian Constitution," he stressed.

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