Hands Off the Pitts!

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has issued a stern warning against any journalist or photographer trying to intrude on the private lives of a Hollywood couple on holiday in Namibia. In a statement issued late yesterday, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Loine Katoma said that any foreign journalist entering the country with the express purpose to cover Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie should apply for a temporary work permit “accompanied by proof of consent that the couple had agreed to meet with them”. Over the weekend the Immigration Department declared three French paparazzi and a South African photojournalist trying to cover the stay of the couple as illegal immigrants and instructed them to leave the country within 48 hours. New Era has reliably learned that the famed couple threatened to leave the country, but thanks to the intervention of some high-ranking government officials, they decided to stay on. There is also a lot of international interest in the couple’s stay in Namibia, with the Google search engine having had more than 360 000 hits on their site since the arrival of the couple on April 4. However, a local human rights group sees the warning as a serious infringement of the freedom of the media. The National Society of Human Rights (NSHR) says the deportations constitute “a grave embarrassment and threaten to bring Namibia’s democratic status into serious question”. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said that the Namibian government in as much as it appreciates the presence of the two stars, feels compelled to protect the privacy of these rare visitors. This comes in light of a statement released by the couple requesting both local and international journalists to keep away from their corner of privacy. “While the Namibian Government has no intention of preventing foreign media practitioners from visiting the country to give it much needed international publicity, requests from foreign media practitioners who want to visit the country with the sole purpose to cover the stay of Mr Pitt and Ms Jolie will henceforth have to be accompanied by proof of consent that the couple has agreed to meet them,” Katoma indicated in a statement. “The Government of Namibia welcomes the two Hollywood celebrities in the country and trusts that they enjoy their stay,” the statement reads. Prime Minister Nahas Angula was also quoted stating that the couple needs privacy especially that Jolie is expecting. The Hollywood stars are resorting at Langstrand, north of Walvis Bay, just like any other tourist in the country. Downplaying claims of harassment by the couple, the NSHR alleges that it all boils down to “who should have the exclusive right to film this celebrity couple”, as they have apparently hired a foreign-based TV crew to film their stay in Namibia. According to the NSHR right to privacy is only “allowed on the grounds of inter alia national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country”. The Hollywood couple over the weekend issued a statement in which they asked the local and international media for privacy so that they can enjoy their stay in the country. They are accompanied by their two adopted children, one from Africa and the other of Asian descent. Jolie, who is eight months pregnant, is planning to deliver her first natural-birth child in Namibia.