By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK While the world this week commemorated the World Press Freedom Day, attacks on the media are reported to be on the increase in Namibia. Based on research findings by Willie Olivier, lecturer in the Department of Media Technology at the Polytechnic of Namibia, 2005 saw in particular the privately owned media coming under fire from parliamentarians and extra-parliamentarians groups. The report reveals these attacks were disturbing as they demonstrated a lack of understanding of the role of the media in a democracy. “Criticism of ‘white’ owners bent on destabilising the Government was a recurrent theme in many of these attacks, while concerns were also raised about the media’s watchdog role and the parliamentary privilege enjoyed by the media,” the report states. The first swipe at the media, according to this research, was when the Government lashed out at what it termed unethical, misleading, irresponsible and callous journalistic practices. This came after one of the local newpapers published a critical letter on the Founding President. The criticism continued with the then Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) Secretary Pau-lus Kapia labelling three local newspapers as enemies of peace and security in the country. “Kapia charged in his vitriolic attack that the three papers either lacked ethics or were deliberately fulfilling the agenda given to you by imperialists,” says the report, Further, last December SPYL Secretary for information Elijah Ngurare similarly reacted to reports that were carried in these papers, adding that press freedom abuse in the country has reached intolerable levels and further calling on the Government to enact laws to restrain those believed to be abusing the freedom of the press. Media institutions continued to receive abusive remarks with some members of Parliament questioning the necessity of members of the press monitoring MPs in the National Assembly. This was further supported by other MPs who felt that journalists are spying on them. Some members even felt a need to prohibit the media from naming MPs who are implicated in alleged corrupt practices. In light of all that, Ben Ulenga, President of the Congress of Democrats (CoD) in a statement indicated that the Namibian Government should stop interfering with all media matters. “The CoD would like to remind the Namibian Government of their obligations to the nation and to society in this regard and therefore urges the Government to respect and uphold the rights of Namibians to freedom of expression.” He called on the Government to actively promote an active, dynamic, free and pluralistic media that tells the truth without fear or favour, and without the slightest interference from government. When compared to other countries in the region, only one case of violation of media freedom was recorded for the past year. However, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Regional Director Kaitira Kandjii stated during the launch of the institution’s annual publication, So This Is Democracy, that this is not a reason for Namibia to become complacent because government seems to be becoming intolerant.
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