WINDHOEK – The Namibia Media Trust (NMT) has condemned in the strongest terms the recent remarks by trade minister Tjekero Tweya, in which he labelled journalists as “flies”.
Tweya also blamed Namibian media for the slow development and lack of investment in the country through “poisoning” the minds of foreign investors.
He made the disparaging remarks on 12 November while speaking at the signing of a memorandum of understanding between global company DP World and the !Nara Namib Free Economic Industrial Zone.
“The NMT at all times concerns itself with the quality and professionalism of our journalism and is invested in raising standards. We also believe that media should always be accountable and open to criticism, which is why the NMT and most media houses in Namibia support the self-regulatory mechanism put in place by the Editors Forum of Namibia (EFN), which includes an Ombudsman to hear and adjudicate grievances against the press,” stated Gwen Lister the NMT executive chairperson.
“This mechanism is underpinned by the Code of Ethics and Conduct for Namibian print, broadcast and online media, to which all journalists are expected to adhere, and the Minister is welcome to make use of this channel,” said Lister.
Tweya’s misplaced attack came at a time when public service investigative journalism has again proved its worth with the exposé of what is being called #fishrot, a massive scheme involving massive kickbacks that led to the resignation of the minister of fisheries and marine resources, Bernard Esau, the minister of justice Sackey Shanghala and James Hatuikulipi as the MD of Investec Asset Management.
The story about massive kickbacks amounting to N$150 million was published by The Namibian in concert with Icelandic media and Wikileaks.
“It also comes just after President Hage Geingob took aim at The Namibian in a media release on November 9 because of an editorial in the November 8 edition which we believe to be balanced and fair comment,” said Lister.
EFN also took issue with the president, pointing out that “freedom of speech is a constitutional right that media are entitled to exercise in the course of their duty.” “We would remind the government of Namibia’s pride of place at the top of Africa’s press freedom survey by Reporters sans Frontiers (RSF) for 2019, and the fact that attacks such as these could not only have a negative impact on the 2020 outcome but also jeopardise our number one ranking,” Lister said. Reporters sans Frontiers, responding to Tweya’s attack in a post on Twitter, emphasised that journalists helped the fight against corruption and bad governance, and that to “discredit their contribution to democracy to attract investors is unworthy of a Minister” from the top-ranked African country.”
NMT also took the opportunity to remind government of “the critical role of journalism in our democracy, both in speaking truth to power and providing citizens with the information they need. This is especially relevant at a time of elections when feelings can run high, and attacks on the media will simply exacerbate tensions.”
“Finally, we call on Minister Tweya himself, who has been habitually antagonistic towards journalists, to practise self-restraint in his public pronouncements and to promote, rather than attack, their important role in society,” Lister concluded.