President Hage Geingob has praised Namibian journalists for their hard work and patriotism in the continued fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“World Press Freedom Day 2020 is marked in the middle of Covid-19, which makes journalists and reporters as frontline workers deserving of our collective praise for putting their lives at risk to ensure that valuable information is shared with the public,” Geingob said on Sunday on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.
The day was celebrated under the theme ‘Journalism Without Fear or Favour’.
Geingob reaffirmed government’s dedication to champion press freedom through the promotion of a pluralistic and independent press in line with the principles of the 1991 Windhoek Declaration.
“I have repeatedly reaffirmed that for as long as I am President, freedom of the press will be guaranteed. Our struggle for freedom was about the pursuit of rights and government will promote press freedom as an integral part in our drive for transparent and effective governance,” said Geingob.
Minister of information Peya Mushelenga said the much-awaited Access to Information law is currently with the legal drafters. Mushelenga was part of a panel discussion on the work of the media during Covid-19 pandemic.
“Freedom of expression is one of the pillars of democracy and it is enshrined in our constitution. People are free to express themselves about a number of things without being controlled or intimidated,” said Mushelenga. He further added that the media should operate independently from government or any pressure groups.
Veteran journalist and chairperson of the Namibia Media Trust Gwen Lister said a free and independent media are indispensable pillars of democracy.
“A diverse media is critical to any democracy. Thus, those who won the media should ensure that there is absolute editorial independence and journalists are allowed to report with those media without fear or favour,” explained Lister.
Lister added that god journalism should be safeguarded and journalists should adhere to the journalistic code of ethics.
“World Press Freedom Day is giving us an opportunity to call on the people to support good journalism. I really think good journalism is in danger and its up to all of us to try and save it, once it is taken away there would be a vacuum which would be filled with fake news and lawmakers not being taken accountable,” said Lister.
Chairman of the Editor’s Forum of Namibia Frank Steffen said that government should ensure there is absolute access to information. “If access to information is allowed, you will find that all these speculations and accusations will fall by the way’s side, simple reason that the person has all facts from the start and does not need to speculate,” said Steffen.
US Ambassador to Namibia Lisa Johnson hailed Namibia’s ranking on the World Press Freedom Index, saying she impressed with the country’s ranking.
The latest Reporters Without Borders for Press Freedom (RSF) index indicates Namibia is ranked 23 in the world and enjoys the top ranking on the continent.
“Successes like Namibia’s press freedom take commitment and attention from every part of society. Daily, Namibian journalists exercise this right in print, online and on the airwaves,” Johnson said in a media statement.
She said the Namibian government is setting new standards of access, openness, and transparency through its Covid-19 Communication Centre with its daily briefings.
“Namibians are deeply engaged in the public dialogue and exercising their right, that of free speech,” she said. – firstname.lastname@example.org