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27.04.2017 09:18 Age: 1 year
Category: New(s) at fesmedia Africa
By: Adam Hartman

Govt blamed for press freedom drop

THE Namibia chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa yesterday placed the blame for the country's decline on Reporters Without Borders' latest World Press Freedom Index squarely at the feet of government.

Natasha Tibinyane
According to the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, released yesterday, Namibia has dropped from 17th in the world to 24th out of 180 countries ranked since last year. Namibia has consistently ranked amongst the top 20 countries on press freedom, and this fact has been widely used by government to market the country as a human rights and media friendly jurisdiction.

The report said although Namibia's Constitution guarantees free speech and protects journalists, the media is often the target of government threats.

“Critical journalists find a refuge on the internet, where they are not subject to control, but self-censorship is common in the state-owned media,” the statement reads.

According to the organisation, public order and security legislation are often used to restrict freedom of information. The comments were similar to last year's index's motivation.

National director of Misa Namibia, Natasha Tibinyane told The Namibian yesterday that she was not surprised by the country's slide.

“It was expected, considering some of the issues around media freedom, especially how our leaders such as President [Hage Geingob] and the information minister [Tjekero Tweya] have insulted and intimidated journalists, as well as some attempts to regulate the media,” she said. “They should be ashamed of themselves.”

Other reasons she said could have contributed to the drop were the government's intention to prioritise state-owned media for government advertising and information dissemination, as well as the absence of an access to information law, which hampers journalists in their work to provide information to the public.

She said the brief detention of two Japanese journalists last year for investigating North Korean activities in Namibia, and the abuse and insults heaped on journalists covering presidential press conferences at State House probably also contributed to the drop.

“I hope this is a wake-up call to our leaders that they will from now apply the Constitution when it comes to media freedom, as well as the Windhoek Declaration, of which we celebrated the 25th anniversary last year,” said Tibinyane. When approached for comment, information minister Tweya only said that Misa Namibia had the right to air their opinion, but did not wish to comment any further.

The index measures media diversity, independence, the quality of the legal framework and the safety of journalists in 180 countries. It is compiled through a questionnaire in 20 languages, which is completed by experts all over the world.

The qualitative analysis is combined with quantitative data on abuses and acts of violence against journalists during the period evaluated.

The index is not an indicator of the quality of journalism in each country, nor does it rank public policies, even if governments obviously have a major impact on a country's ranking.

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