Namibia is a great democracy – Simataa

WINDHOEK, Namibia is among few African countries that continues to maintain a truly democracy where citizens including the media, enjoy unregulated rights to criticise their leaders and government, said Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Stanley Simataa.

Simataa said in Namibia, citizens and the media, using an array of platforms, enjoy unfettered rights to criticise their leaders � from President Hage Geingob to Cabinet ministers, at times using vitriolic and degrading language akin to an African society with long-established norms and values.

Even government owned media institutions do not shy away from being critical. That notwithstanding, no single individual, journalist nor media house has ever been persecuted, he said in response to questions posed to him in Parliament last week.

We should also not take away the right of reply, government or any aggrieved individual has to media reports /articles, he said.

Simataa said when government or aggrieved individuals exercise their right of reply, including lodging a legitimate complaint with the Media Ombudsman, such actions should not be construed as threatening concerned media institutions.

You will agree with me that while the media try their utmost best to report accurately, there have been instances where some reports were littered with blatant inaccuracies, at times innuendos that cannot be left unchallenged for they risk misleading the readers, he said.

Public order and security legislation often used to restrict freedom to information, he added.

He said Namibia, as is the case with many other countries, operates in a globally dynamic media environment � an environment which is impacted either positively or negatively by a plethora of geopolitical and national issues.

Yes, Namibia has for a good number of years, occupied the number one spot on continental level in terms of rankings by the Reporters without Borders, he said. In fact, he said, notwithstanding that 'we' are a relatively young democratic state, Namibia has consistently ranked much higher than many other established democracies globally. It suffices to state that so far, we have managed to achieve this feat without the much talked about Access to Information Bill, elaborated the information minister.

We owe our success to the enduring provisions of Chapter 3, Article 21 1(a) of our Constitution, said Simataa.

To date, he said, Namibia has, as dictated by Article 5 of our Constitution, upheld and continues to uphold the provisions of Chapter 3 of our supreme law. In the same vein, Simataa said having emerged, not long ago, from the brutality of a regime that had no regard for the rights of its citizens, including freedom of the press, no media house nor journalist, has to date been firebombed, ransacked, harassed or persecuted.

Simataa said having almost concluded the lengthy process of consulting stakeholders, his ministry is likely to table the Access to Information Bill in parliament before the end of this year.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia