Namibia: No Law Against Taking Videos

The Namibian Police have conceded that there is no law that prohibits civilians from taking videos or pictures of law enforcement agents.

This was said by police commissioner Nelius Becker at a press conference held in Windhoek yesterday, called to clarify two videos of members of 'Operation Kalahari Desert' assaulting civilians.

This comes just after a decision by the prosecution at the Windhoek Magistrate's Court in Katutura not to prosecute where a minor was accused of obstructing the course of justice when she took a video of members of 'Operation Kalahari Desert' assaulting her cousin on Saturday.

In a similar case a few months ago, civilian Benisius Kalola was shot for taking a video on his phone, of the police officers and soldiers raiding a house at Windhoek's Single Quarters location.

Kalola refused to hand over the phone and ran away instead, triggering the operation's members to open fire on him.

Becker explained that taking a "video or a picture in a public sphere as something happens in front of you might be fine and it might not be a violation (of the law)".

Becker, however, said it depends on what the person taking footage intends to do with it.

"Sometimes it jeopardises investigations. The short of it is that there is no legislation that says no, but we do not encourage this [taking of photos or videos]. It is not to hide crime, but [a bid] not to jeopardise investigations," said Becker.

The Namibian last year reported defence minister Penda ya Ndakolo as saying the public was simply not allowed to take videos or pictures of the police or soldiers when they are on duty.

He said that despite the fact that the Defence Act 1 of 2002, section 55 (1) states that the public is only prohibited to take photographs of military camps, barracks, dockyards, installations or other security premises.

Ya Ndakolo did not answer his phone nor respond to any text messages seeking clarification on the issue.

COURT CASE

Deputy inspector general Oscar Embubulu said the case of the minor was thrown out due to lack of evidence to show the minor had done wrong.

The Namibian was at the court, where the social worker, who cannot be named, explained that she had been screening the minor for her appearance scheduled for yesterday.

She said as part of the process, she needed access to the docket, which she went to fetch from a prosecutor, who told her he cannot prosecute because there is no criminal case.

"The prosecutor told me that there is no criminal case and that the minor cannot be prosecuted. So the case was thrown out and there was no criminal offence that she committed by taking the video," said the screening officer.

The minor's grandmother, Edith Mbanga, who was seated at the entrance of the court, said she had travelled out of town only to return to news that not only was her grandchild assaulted by law enforcement officers, but they had also entered her house without her permission.

"This is trespassing. Those two children have been traumatised by people who are supposed to uphold the law. Is there a law that says that people cannot take videos? I want to see it. They are supposed to protect people but they are the ones harassing them. It is disappointing and disrespectful that they can just enter someone's yard and do what they want," said the grandmother.

The girl's grandfather, Augustinus Mutanga, said black people must learn to help each other instead of harming each other.

The minor's uncle Emmanuel Shikomba, said they were extremely happy that the case had been thrown out.

"We already knew they did not have a case and we have also registered our case. Our main worry is that they are going to make the docket disappear. I don't want to say too much now since the case is under investigation," said Shikomba.

The girl's mother, Confidence Kubukeni, said it shows that the police officers involved think they are above the law.

"They knew there would not be a case but they chose to just send us around and further victimise the girl. She was supposed to be at school because she is not attending a school in Windhoek. This was further trauma they subjected her to. I am so angry at this," said the mother.

She expressed hope that what she went through would help other families not to keep quiet but to fight injustice.

"We had to come early for screening only to be told that there is no case. A lot of people had to take off from work. They knew this but they decided to make us go through it anyway and make us waste our time," said Kubukeni.

To her, watching her child go through the gruelling process that criminals go through before appearing at court was painful.

"It was painful. You will not think that a minor child would go through this and she is not a criminal. She had to go through that anyway. Their aim was to send us around," said Kubukeni.

Human rights lawyer Norman Tjombe said it is outrageous that a minor child would be arrested for taking a video of law enforcement officers committing an unlawful act.

"But it is very telling of the police's management that no action had been taken against culprits, despite clear laws being violated. We must accept that these unlawful actions are at the very least condoned by the top structures of our law enforcement agents," said Tjombe.

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