Government and media practitioners have called for the end of impunity for crimes committed against journalists and hailed Namibia’s safety for journalists to work.
On Wednesday, journalists from various media houses gathered at the UN Plaza in Katutura to observe 2 November, a day known as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.
The group deliberated on issues affecting them, including mental health, unfair wages, unfavourable working conditions and the slow pace of the labour ministry in approving their application to be recognised as a union to legally and rightfully carry out their mandate.
“Impunity thrives where there is no protection of journalists; we can’t shy away from the fact that journalists are under constant threat, and there is no recourse because there is no union,” said the deputy secretary general of the Namibia Media Professionals Union (NAMPU), Jemima Beukes.
NAMPU in a statement this week called on governments to ensure perpetrators of crimes against journalists are brought to justice.
“We note that despite the best efforts by various stakeholders and the international community to deliver a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers, journalists and media workers across the world continue to work under unfriendly and hostile environments in which they are continuously prosecuted, beaten, detained, harassed, threatened and killed for exercising their profession,” said the union.
NAMPU also expressed solidarity with journalists all over the world who continue to risk their lives in hostile environments for the service of the public.
“We reiterate that journalists are the guarantor of democracy, rule of law and good governance, and criminalising the profession would deprive access to information to the general public, as nobody would dare expose corruption, human rights violation, inequalities and the decline of political freedoms,” said the union.
NAMPU said Namibia continues to set a press freedom example for other countries to emulate.
Namibia is considered one of the safest countries for journalists.
However, cases of intimidation, online and offline harassment, the heavy-handedness of police against journalists covering protests, as well as attempts by politicians and government officials to police news are, still prevalent.
Journalist Shelleygan Petersen shared the only thing that pushes media practitioners is the impact their stories tend to have on society and can never get over the hurdle of intimidation.
“If you get intimidated, it means you are probably on the right track, and you should never give up,” stated Petersen. In a statement issued Wednesday, the information ministry reaffirmed its commitment to the ethos of freedom of expression and the press, further calling on all countries to heed this call, as it is one of the essential foundations of democracy.
“Namibia has made great strides in ensuring press freedom as ranked 18th globally and second on the African continent by Reporters Without Borders 2022 World Press Freedom rankings.
“Furthermore, the National Assembly and National Council recently passed the Access to Information Bill, which now awaits the president’s certification before it becomes law. We view access to information legislation as a cornerstone of freedom,” said Audrin Mathe, executive director of the ministry of information.
He further said Namibia fosters the values and principles of press freedom.
“Threats, violence and attacks against journalists are serious violations of freedom of expression and that of the press. These crimes create a climate of fear for media practitioners, hampering the free circulation of information,” said Mathe.