We Should Be Leading the Pack [opinion]

FOR SEVERAL years now Namibia has been ranked in the top three to five bracket of countries with the best environment for news media freedom in Africa.

In fact, it has clinched top spot on the continent in recent years, according to the Paris-based Reporters San Frontiers (RSF) or Reporters Without Borders.

Namibian politicians and journalists have, rightly so, made the most of the ranking as an accolade worth crowing about. Who after all, doesn’t want to be viewed as being clean? All around us, except perhaps in Botswana, journalists have been murdered and imprisoned over the last 20 years, Angola being the worst in Southern Africa.

But on the eve of celebrating World Press Freedom Day, should we be comfortable with whatever rankings which place us at around number 20 in world for media freedom? To do ourselves justice with this question, we may have to go back in time.

On 3 May 1991, several prominent African journalists gathered in Windhoek under the auspices of Unesco to chart a path for the news media at the end of the Cold War with the expected wave of democratisation sweeping across Africa, if not the entire world.

The Unesco seminar titled “Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press” ended with a far-reaching statement of intent called the Windhoek Declaration, which was endorsed by the Unesco General Conference.

Well, the day of the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration was, a few years after 1991, ratified by the United Nations as World Press Freedom Day to raise awareness about the importance of freedom of information and expression.

Namibia as the springboard for the campaign of some of the most basic of human rights should thus not be content with being ranked 20th in the world as a country with the freest media. We must work at leading the pack.

But we cannot lead the pack with a government, parastatals and private institutions as well as individuals who deliberately keep information from the media (and thus from the wider population).

Yet most of the blame should be placed at our own doorstep as the media, be it privately-owned or publicly-funded. To a large extent we are our own Achilles heel because of self-censorship as well as a failure to work together for our common interests and to rally the public to the cause of providing quality information and promoting freedom of expression.

This statement by RSF is instructive to both the general public and journalists or other practitioners of news media: “Don’t wait to be deprived to stand up and fight for it.”

Indeed, access to information is a long way from being a reality in Namibia. The rankings and other accolades accorded must not make us complacent about the difficulties we face despite us not being among the worst countries in which journalists operate.

Pity the Working Class

HOW SAD for Namibia’s working class and the country that trade union leaders have lost passion and vision.

Many leaders have seemingly come to see a union as a source of salaries and perks similar to ones in parastatals and private companies or a mere springboard to another job of ‘higher status’.

May Day has become just another public holiday bereft of meaning.

Times have changed substantially from the colonial days when unionists could simply point to any employer as the devil. Thus the role of a modern unionist in Namibia should be aimed at things such as reducing pay inequality between the best paid and lower ranks of workers and also to encourage higher productivity so that Namibia can develop.

It is a pity that unions are happy to sacrifice productivity (like many other national leaders) and would rather have copious amounts public holidays that lead to unnecessary extended long-weekends, as is the case with Cassinga Day this Sunday.

Source : The Namibian