Govt Urged to Consult On Information Bill

THE Namibia Media Trust has urged the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology to consult on the Freedom of Information Bill in order for media freedom to be consolidated.

Chairperson of the Namibia Media Trust (NMT) Gwen Lister said that Namibia’s media environment has received positive ratings by both Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders, and is freer than that found in most parts of Africa, although concerns still remain.

Lister, who issued a statement on World Press Freedom Day which was on Sunday, said the media still struggles to access information from official sources, which in turn inhibits good investigative journalism and ethical practices.

“While Namibia’s information minister (Tjekero Tweya) recently said that a freedom of information act is currently in the starting blocks, it is important to ensure that this happens in a consultative environment in order for media freedom to be consolidated,” she said.

She said it is also imperative that citizens are given open and affordable access to the Internet in order to promote access to information, and to be guaranteed the freedom to exercise their opinions on this platform.

“NMT calls on governments not to curb these voices. It (NMT) also calls on media to take an interest in media freedom issues and commit to solidarity with journalists everywhere,” she said.

Lister said NMT has noted the deterioration of media freedom across the globe in recent years, warning that if journalists are not free to do their work in a safe and enabling environment, then citizens too are deprived their rights to information and freedom of speech.

She said journalism can only thrive if it is allowed to do so in a free and enabling environment in which journalists are not harassed, jailed or killed for doing their work.

The NMT, which aocates media freedom as well as freedom of speech and expression and excellence in journalism, both in Namibia and further afield, is concerned about the current decline in freedoms, especially closer to home.

Lister also urged African governments to remind themselves of the sentiment at the heart of the Windhoek Declaration which was adopted on 3 May 1991, namely “that the establishment, maintenance and fostering of an independent, pluralistic and free press is essential for the development and maintenance of democracy in a nation, and for economic development”.

According to the US-based Freedom House, in its Freedom of the Press 2015 report, global press freedom has declined to its lowest point in more than 10 years and only 14% of the world’s inhabitants, namely one in seven people, lived in countries with a free press in 2014.

The findings showed that harsh laws and violence had driven the global decline. This year’s theme of World Press Freedom Day is ‘Let Journalism Thrive’.

Source : The Namibian