Information minister Peya Mushelenga yesterday gave the assurance that the country is well on track to host World Press Freedom Day celebrations this week.
The conference is to be hosted by UNESCO and the government of Namibia, and will be a digital experience combining virtual and in-presence participation.
Selected sessions will take place physically in Windhoek, respecting physical distancing and other precautions recommended by the health authorities.
The event also marks the 30th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration, developed at a UNESCO-organised seminar in
Windhoek by African journalists pressing for a free, independent and pluralistic African press.
The declaration inspired the concretisation of 3 May as WPFD, and it is considered a landmark which paved the way for political and economic deregulation in the media landscape around the world, thus increasing press freedom and the development of media independence, pluralism and diversity.
Mushelenga said the event will be officially opened by President Hage Geingob. Other key dignitaries include UNESCO director general Audrey Azoulay, as well as other delegates attending physically and those joining virtual sessions.
Equally, he said, Namibian journalists have been asked to attend physically.
“UNESCO and the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) have been preparing for this day. We had a steering committee chaired by myself as well as the UNESCO representative in Namibia. The last meeting was held on Monday. So, everything is on course,” Mushelenga indicated.
The conference will spread over five days (like the 1991 seminar), and will comprise over 35 sessions and plenaries, including three thematic ones discussing current issues on media viability, the transparency of online platforms, and strengthening media and information literacy capacities.
Keynote speeches and interviews with world-renowned journalists, media and tech leaders, experts, and activists will be held.
Veteran journalist Gwen Lister, who is also the champion for WPFD, narrated that 3 May 1991 is a historic day on which the Windhoek Declaration was adopted by mainly print journalists from across the continent.
The journalists rejected the prevalent dispensation at the time of government controls over media, and affirmed the necessity for free, independent and pluralistic media as being essential for economic development and the maintenance of democracy. The role of governments, participants insisted, was instead to create an enabling environment for press freedom to thrive, Lister said.
“So, 3 May means a lot, not only to the journalists of our continent whose stance on 3 May 1991 led the UN General Assembly to adopt that date as WPFD, but also because it created a ripple effect in various parts of the globe, where journalists made similar demands and gave voice to these through, amongst others, the Alma-Ata Declaration in Kazakhstan, the Sofia Declaration in Bulgaria, Sanaa in Yemen and the Santiago Declaration in Chile,” she continued.
Lister believes it is a day on which the world must celebrate journalists, but also one on which people mourn those imprisoned, or whose lives have been lost across the globe, in most cases for simply speaking truth to power, and doing their work in the service of the public.
“It is also a time for us to deeply introspect about where we find ourselves in the new digital world, and to look at ways we can both sustain and innovate and review our roles to ensure the survival of good journalism, currently under threat worldwide,” she said.
Ready to host …President Hage Geingob, Gwen Lister, and former Editors Forum of Namibia chairperson Joseph Ailonga during an earlier event.
Photo: Emmency Nuukala