TODAY, on May 03, the media fraternity at home and in the diaspora commemorate World Press Freedom Day.
The United Nations General Assembly declared May 03 to be World Press Freedom Day. The main aim of this declaration was to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and to remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Namibia is a signatory.
World Press Freedom Day also came about to mark the historic anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration, a statement of free press principles put together by African newspaper journalists in 1991 shortly after Namibia’s independence.
We are blessed that Article 21 of the highly progressive and model Namibian Constitution on fundamental freedoms includes freedom of speech and expression, which includes freedom of the press and other media.
Freedom of expression and the media is an essential component of our democratic system of governance. African governments and Namibia in particular must see to it that the press remains free and there is a free, unhindered flow of information because the media is the only vehicle through which citizens can express themselves.
The right to freedom of expression and media is non-negotiable. Throttling the media not only stifles the free flow of information, but such retrogressive acts are draconian measures that infringe on the Constitution and go against the Constitution that every citizen should fearlessly protect.
If the press is suppressed in turn the masses are also suppressed, because they do not have a means through which to express themselves. We must protect our media at all costs and not merely pay lip service to upholding the principles of the fourth estate for the sake of political convenience.
Any threat to the media is a threat to our democracy in which the media play a pivotal part. Having said that, Namibia is one of the most progressive nations on the African continent with a vibrant and pluralistic media. We have several daily and weekly newspapers that entertain, inform and educate the masses. We also have community media that serve various segments of our population.
Recently the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology indicated it would soon ensure all schools have Internet connectivity and this clearly indicates the importance that government attaches to information.
There is a saying that information is power and this initiative by the MICT to ensure there is Internet connectivity in schools in rural areas should be applauded, because availing such a service to rural areas will enhance civic participation on a wide range of societal issues.
Government should also be commended for lifting the decade-long advertising and buying ban of The Namibian newspaper that in truth was a ban merely on paper since everyone continued to buy this newspaper.
It should also be emphasized that since independence not a single journalist has been arrested, while the media is free to report on whatever it chooses.
There have been a few hiccups, but generally speaking the relationship between our politicians and various media houses has been civil and cordial unlike before independence when journalists risked arm and limb from the colonial authorities.
New Era prescribes to and embraces the principles that gave birth to World Press Freedom Day and thus we join the entire media fraternity to celebrate this day.
Hail, the media; hail World Press Freedom Day!