Namibia yesterday retained its top position in Africa, 24th in the world, on Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) Press Freedom Index.
Cabo Verde (27) and Ghana (30) occupy second and third places in Africa. Norway, Finland and Sweden are the top-ranked countries in the world.
The Presidency has lauded Namibia’s firm hold on the World Press Freedom Index, saying such commitment is informed by the emphasis on effective governance, underpinned by the country’s democratic values, processes, systems and institutions.
The report says press freedom has a firm hold in Namibia, Africa’s best-ranked country in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index since 2019, and enjoys solid guarantees. It is protected by the Constitution and is often defended by the courts when under attack from other quarters within the state or by vested interests.
This year’s index, which evaluates the press freedom situation in 180 countries and territories annually, shows that journalism, “arguably the best vaccine against the virus of disinformation,
is totally blocked or seriously impeded in 73 countries and constrained in 59 others, which together represent 73% of the countries evaluated”.
“It is a demonstration of the commitment of President Hage Geingob to the ideals of a free press. This commitment is informed by the emphasis on effective governance, underpinned by our democratic values, processes, systems and institutions,” press secretary Alfredo Hengari said yesterday, adding that a press that is free and reports on facts is a vital component in the country’s democracy.
Chairperson of the Editors’ Forum of Namibia (EFN) Frank Steffen acknowledged yesterday that Namibia certainly does well as far as freedom of the media is concerned.
“It is, however, disconcerting that we have lost a position, previously having been on spot 23 [on the world ranking]. I have always said that we need to aim higher and become better than only being number one in Africa,” he said.
Steffen said being the country where the Windhoek Declaration was born, which strives for a free and pluralistic media, Namibia has a responsibility to drive these aims.
“They cannot just remain words on a piece of paper,” he said.
He added that the Access to Information Act has still not been passed after many years, and that certainly should be regarded as the stumbling block for the country to be rated higher on the index.
“It is one thing to be allowed to put words on paper without fear that authorities will interfere with your work. It is another to be allowed free access to all information so as to inform the nation independently and objectively,” he said.
According to the veteran journalist, passing the Access to Information Bill in Namibia would catapult the country into one of the foremost positions in the world on the World Press Freedom Index.
“It would be the ultimate step towards attaining true freedom of the press. Having dropped one position is not the way to go and should not be interpreted as a huge success,” he said.