Namibia is preparing to host the 2021 World Press Freedom Day, which will mark exactly 30 years since the signing of the famous Windhoek Declaration on 3 May 1991 that paved the way for a free, independent and pluralistic press. The date of the declaration’s adoption, 3 May, has subsequently been declared as World Press Freedom Day.
Last week, the Netherlands officially handed over the hosting of the event to Namibia after government submitted a bid to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to host 2021 edition. According to Unesco, 3 May is a date, which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom, to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
Information minister Peya Mushelenga said Namibia continues to value press freedom and ensure a conducive environment for the media to operate in for the enhancement of democracy. He said this remains evident as Namibia continues to retain her position as number one in Africa and number 23 on the global ranking as per the World Press Index report and as well as the Access to Information Bill which is currently under consideration in parliament.
“It is, therefore, befitting that the 2021 World Press Freedom Day will be held in the birthplace of the Windhoek Declaration and hub of press freedom in Africa, at a time when we review 30 years of the declaration’s existence,” Mushelenga said. He added freedom of the press and access to information is the essence of a just society.
Moreover, he said, freedom of speech has been recognised as an aspiration of common people in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He said his ministry and Unesco have already started with the preparations of events leading to the World Press Freedom Day celebrations from 1 to 3 May 2021 and the 30th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration. “Various working groups have been and are being established to come up with, and implement activities pertaining to this event,” he said.
Mushelenga said the hosting of the World Press Freedom Day in Windhoek next year is a testimony that the international community is committed to maintaining pluralism, transparency and objectivity in the media fraternity and public information dissemination. He said while governments have duties to guarantee media freedom, the principle of objectivity implores upon media practitioners to exercise this freedom with a sense of responsibility and duty to human dignity, public morality and civility.
“I have taken note, with appreciation, that during this time of Covid-19 pandemic, some media houses the world over have demonstrated this sense of responsibility by positively contributing to public education about the pandemic and safety measures that people should undertake,” he said. He also said the dissemination of accurate information has been particularly important, given competing fake news in the social media from faceless sources that derail efforts to address the pandemic.