The Presidency has defended its decision to exclude some media houses from a media briefing at State House last week.
Press secretary Alfredo Hengari explained the Presidency had no intention to discriminate against media outlets, but measures had to be put in place for the safety and health of reporters amid the outbreak of Covid-19. “The Presidency has no intention to censor reporters, and President Hage Geingob has vowed to defend press freedom. But, in the context of Covid-19, it is in the best interest of reporters and the health of Namibians to follow media briefings through virtual and digital platforms,” said Hengari in a press statement last week. Last week, the Presidency hosted a media briefing on Covid-19 but only extended the invitation to the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), the Namibia Press Agency (Nampa) and One Africa Television, a decision that was not taken well by the media fraternity.
“To fight propagation of Covid-19 in Namibia, and in compliance with the preventative guidelines of social distancing and avoidance of crowds in one place, the Presidency elected (logically that is) that the 1 April 2020 presidential update on Covid-19 would be largely virtual, and limited to the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), One Africa Television and the Namibia Press Agency (Nampa),” explained Hengari. According to the Presidency, although there was exclusion of certain media houses, reporters were allowed to submit their questions via WhatsApp. “More important, the Presidency assured reporters on its WhatsApp group that the format was not perfect and might appear discriminatory – but that was not the intention,” noted Hengari. Hengari advised the media fraternity to embrace the use of virtual media briefings to save lives and stay safe during the fight against Covid-19. He further added the presidency would continue to take measures to protect journalists by carrying out virtual media briefings. “At this crucial hour, during which the nation is valiantly fighting Covid-19, Namibians are looking for the press to provide leadership by delivering credible information about what elected officials do and share with the nation. It is a time for collaboration, and not the petty politics of confrontation,” said Hengari.