The editors issued the statement yesterday in light of World Press Freedom Day, which was commemorated on Friday, 3 May in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This year's theme was 'The Role of Media in Elections and Democracy'.
The forum said a peaceful and profit-making environment would help economic growth in the region.
The editors said southern Africa as a whole and its chapters are facing a mixed bag of media freedom.
There was, however, hope for countries such as Namibia, who recently regained her position as the number one country with regards to press freedom in Africa.
Namibia moved up three places from 26th in 2018 to 23rd in 2019 in the latest world rankings to reclaim her position on the continent from Ghana. The editors furthermore stated that more needs to be done with regards to media freedom on the continent because at the moment, no African country is in the top 20 on the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom rankings.
Botswana showed a significant change with its new government as they have also moved up four places from 48th in 2018 to 44th in this year's rankings.
Although there is high intimidation of journalists in Eswatini (Swaziland), the statement says, there was slow improvement in that country.
Eswatini, which had one of the worst rankings globally, has moved five places from 152nd in 2018 to 147th in the latest rankings. Although some countries show growth in some areas, many are showing regression overall, with South Africa, Malawi, Angola and Lesotho all dropping on the 2019 index.
Zimbabwe has moved one place down from 126th in 2018 to 127th in 2019, while Angola is still ranked low globally with the biggest drop of 12 places from 109th to 121st, followed by Lesotho dropping 10 places from 68th (2018) to 78th (2019), and then Zambia from 113th (2018) to 119th (2019). All other countries which dropped places dropped less than five places in their individual rankings.
However, the editors are concerned about countries such as Zambia and Mozambique, where the arrests of journalists are still common. They added that they are also concerned about the dropping of places by Malawi and Lesotho. Meanwhile, president Hage Geingob, in a press statement on Friday urged the media to play a central role in deepening democracy, unity and social cohesion.
“As the fourth estate, the press is a core partner in our governance architecture. The potential of the press to deepen accountability and trust should be harnessed by quality journalism that informs citizens on the basis of facts,” he added.
The chairperson of the Editors' Forum of Namibia (EFN), Joseph Ailonga, reiterated that this year's theme is befitting for Namibia's current setting.
“The theme speaks to us rightly,” he said. “We are in an election year, and democracy must prevail.”
Ailonga said in order for democracy to prevail, the electorate must be well-informed to exercise their democratic rights properly, and that with misinformation, mistakes can be made, which in turn could lead a country to autocracy or dictatorship. Although World Press Freedom Day was on Friday, Namibia will officially commemorate the day on 7 May in Windhoek.