Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns a wave of verbal attacks on journalists by government officials in the run-up to yesterday's elections in Namibia, and the state-owned Namibian Press Agency’s decision to suddenly cancel freelance journalist Vita Angula’s contract after he participated in a TV discussion about corruption.
After Angula took part in a panel debate on the One Africa TV channel about the so-called “fishrot” scandal – concerning alleged “corruption” in the allocation of Namibia’s fishing quotas the news agency said his participation in this “highly controversial” discussion had compromised its editorial stance and its reputation.
This scandal has dominated the campaign for today’s presidential and national election. Fishing is Namibia’s second-largest industry after mining and documents provided by WikiLeaks to the country’s leading daily, The Namibian, and international media outlets indicate that ministers took bribes in exchange for granting access to Namibia fishing grounds.Two ministers have had to resign and one of them has been arrested.
Other government officials have reacted by attacking the media. A few days ago, the president’s office issued a statement accusing journalists of trying to “tarnish” the president’s image and waging a disinformation campaign with the aim of swaying voters.
Previously, at the start of the month, trade minister Tjekero Tweya likened journalists to “flies” who were “poisoning” the population with false information.
“This series of attacks against journalists constitutes a major blow to the image of the country that has Africa’s highest ranking in the World Press Freedom Index,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk.“By covering corruption, journalists are just doing their job and acting as the allies of good governance. We call on the authorities to put a stop to these verbal attacks, which are undermining Namibian democracy. We also firmly condemn the Namibian Press Agency’s decision to sanction a journalist who just voiced an opinion, one that is moreover well supported by the facts.”
President Hage Geingob is seeking another term in yesterday'’s election, in which there are ten other contenders. He is expected succeed despite the “fishrot” scandal’s impact.
Namibia is ranked 23rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.