Namibia: EFN Concerned Over Intimidation of Journalists

10 December 2019

The Editors' Forum of Namibia today condemned intimidation of journalists by supporters of political parties on internet platforms.

This follows after supporters of former independent presidential candidate Panduleni Itula and some opposition parties chased away journalists of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation from a gathering at the Embandu Sports Field in the Oshana Region.

The supporters further disturbed another meeting at the Youth Complex in Katutura.

"The EFN has noted that these threats and often vile abuse have become even more pronounced on various internet platforms, such as Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media sites," EFN chairperson Frank Steffen said.

Steffen reminded the public that the right to information, freedom of expression and criticism is one of the fundamental rights of any person, adding that the rights and duties of any journalist originate from this right and are cardinal in the course of journalists' duty.

He further said this type of uncontrolled behaviour has led to the death of journalists elsewhere on the continent or in other parts of the world.

"It is in society's own interest to respect these rights and allow journalists to perform their duty unhindered," he said.

The EFN called on political parties and other institutions to work with journalists rather than against them and to warn their members or supporters against committing crimes which include threats to cause grievous bodily harm against any person, including a journalist.

Steffen said if the public had a complaint about non-factual or unethical reporting by any EFN member, they should contact the media ombudsman, John Nakuta.

Last month, the Namibia Media Trust's executive chairperson, Gwen Lister, condemned remarks made by trade minister Tjekero Tweya, who had called journalists "flies".

Tweya had claimed that the things journalists write about were the reasons behind 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.

Lister said the Namibia Media Trust (NMT) worked hard to make sure its journalism was rich in both quality and professionalism, and was 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, which includes an ombudsman to hear and adjudicate grievances against the press," she stated.

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.

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