Press freedom cracks beginning to show – NAMPU

• By Tracy Tafirenyika

AS Namibian reporters joined the rest of the world to celebrates the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, Namibia Media Professionals Union (NAMPU) Deputy Secretary General, Jemima Beukes said Namibia had for years been the envy of the continent for its good record on press freedom but cracks are beginning to show.

Beukes said this in an exclusive interview with Confidente this week.

She said crimes against Journalists in Namibia crimes is a scenario that is slowly unfolding and eating away press freedom.

“As we have observed Journalists are increasingly censoring themselves out of fear of being sued for defamation. As you may have noticed our courts have had quite a number of defamation cases in the past year alone.

“What is important to note is that Namibia was unseated as the freest press on the continent by Seychelles who’s score improved after their parliament’s decriminalised defamation. It is widely reported that this defamation legislation and culture has entrenched a culture of self-censorship and exposed journalists to political pressure in recent years,” she stated

Beukes furthermore elaborated that the latest African media barometer on Namibia points to certain ‘hot potato’ topics journalists are cautious about reporting on.

“Journalists feel uncomfortable to write about such sensitive and hard issues and restrict themselves on writing about these,” the barometer said.

“The barometer has also observed that intimidation of Private Media by the Private sector is more severe than that of government. This is a major concern because the Private sector is essentially one main revenue source for Media Houses and influences the sustainability of a Media House. This therefore opens the door wide to intimidation and censorship,” she said.

Namibia Media Trust (NMT) Director, Zoé Titus in her speech on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists said journalists are the frontline workers in our democracies and an attack on a journalist is an attack on democracy itself.

“Today we stand firm and demand justice for all journalists who have been persecuted in any form for merely doing their work. To them we say ‘continue to speak truth to power.’ You are on the right side of history. We stand with you!’

“Namibia is ranked 18 on the Reporters without Borders 2022, World Press Freedom rankings and numbers two in Africa, making it one of the safest countries in Africa for journalists. This should not pave the way for complacency. Our (media) freedoms must be guarded with vigilance for, just as it was granted, it can be withdrawn. Additionally, we would welcome our government speaking out against issues of impunity against journalists elsewhere. At every opportunity, we reiterate that #JournalismIsNotACrime! In fact, journalists are the frontline workers in our democracies and an attack on a journalist is an attack on democracy itself,” she stated.

In 2013, The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed November 2, as the “International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists” in a General Assembly Resolution A/RES/68/163. The Resolution condemns all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers.