Tweya Lashes Out At ‘Character Assassinations’

MINISTER of information and technology Tjekero Tweya has accused the media of abusing their freedom of expression for character assassination.

The minister reminded journalists that they have the right to freedom of expression but that this right comes with responsibility as well as accountability. Tweya’s remarks come three days after World Press Freedom Day, which was commemorated on Sunday.

During a belated occasion held to commemorate press freedom day in Windhoek yesterday, the new minister said that all Namibian journalists should understand their role in building the nation and refrain from sensational journalism that aims to destroy people’s characters and dignity.

Although Tweya did not specify which individuals’ characters were being assassinated, he said the media was destroying people’s characters to generate “more money”. “Do the right thing as a responsible entity,” he charged.

He also said the media demands dignity from those in power while failing to uphold people’s dignity with their “sensational” reporting, adding that the media “criticises people but cannot take criticism itself.”

“Let journalism thrive – do not spread sensationalism,” he said, referring to the theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day which focused on allowing media to thrive.

Tweya also scolded the media for promoting “other people’s interests” rather than promoting local content, saying ordinary Namibians should also be given an opportunity to share their stories.

Despite the burning criticism, Tweya emphasised that government will continue to produce policies that will promote a conducive environment in which journalists can produce their work without fear, intimidation or censorship. Tweya also applauded the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (Cran) for proposing a Code of Conduct for Broadcasting Service Licensees, saying his ministry wholly supports the idea.

“The code would ensure that Namibians can freely and openly debate and discuss matters of public interest on various broadcast platforms available in the country. The Broadcasting Code prescribes special duties for broadcasters during national, regional and local election campaigns in Namibia,” he said.

Chairperson of the Editor’s Forum of Namibia Eberhardt Hoffman expressed concern over some public relations practitioners, especially those who work for government, saying they deliberately delay providing information to the media by demanding questions in the form of emails. “There are growing ministries which ignore certain questions, especially when it comes to controversial topics or concerning non-delivery of services or neglect of duties,” said Hoffman. He added that many public relations officers are not aware of how many media houses exist and only communicate information to a selected few. Among other issues raised at the event was the need for media to keep up with the fast-growing digital age, including social media and for the public to feel free to lodge their media-related complaints with the Media Ombudsman, as well as the need for media to focus more on educating the masses rather than just entertaining.

According to Fesmedia Africa, Namibia has been ranked 17 out of 180 countries in the latest 2015 World Press Freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders. The country moved up 5 positions from being ranked 22 out 180 in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index. Despite this positive progress, Namibian journalists say that they still find it challenging accessing information that is deemed to be in the public interest. The event was organised by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the Media Institute of Southern Africa, the Polytechnic of Namibia, European Union, University of Namibia and the Ministry of Information.

Source : The Namibian