More Investigative Journalists Needed

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By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek A leading investigative journalist, John Grobler, said Namibia needs more investigative journalists in order to preserve its young democracy. Speaking at a public lecture in the capital on Wednesday, Grobler said many watchdog agencies such as the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Central Governance Agency (CGA) and the Office of the Ombudsman are so ineffective that there is more pressure for the country to produce journalists with investigative skills. Grobler is a freelance journalist with an English daily. He noted that a free media is the first line of defence in any democracy. He stated that legal fees are so expensive that ordinary people cannot afford them and the only instrument which ordinary people can use to address their grievances is the media. Grobler said that because the Namibian watchdog agencies are ineffective, there are no proper checks and balances and thus the media has become the last line of defence, which is a dangerous situation for any country. “The media in this country, although very small, has become the last line of defence, and the only line of defence,” said Grobler. Calling the state of investigative journalism poor, he attributed this to the fact that newspapers are poorly resourced. “Many daily newspapers in this country lack the human resource capacity and their journalists only focus on organized information because of the pressure to bring out an edition every day,” Grobler is quoted as saying. He further stated that promising investigative journalists also leave the profession very early because they use the newsrooms only as a springboard to more lucrative jobs. Grobler, who graduated from the University of Cape Town more than a decade ago, called on the University of Namibia and Polytechnic of Namibia to put more effort into training investigative journalists. An award-winner in 1995, Grobler said some of the major investigative stories he has worked on included the one on Namibia Liquid Fuels and a story about a catering company in Namibia. He said one of the biggest challenges he faces in the profession is the number of lawsuits and summonses he has to deal with. Currently, I am facing five summonses, and I have a lawyers bill which is in excess of N$15ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 which I need to settle. Grobler, who previously worked with the Windhoek Observer, said he enjoyed working at the paper with editor Hannes Smit but remarked that at times it was unbearable to work at the weekly paper. “The Observer is almost a one-man show where Smith dictates all the articles, and it shows us what a difference one journalist can make.” He added that he does not see himself working for the Observer again but fears that the newspaper will die a natural death once Smith leaves. He jokingly remarked that he once dropped the idea to Smith that he wanted to take over the newspaper, and Smith told him he could get it at the price of N$6 million. The public lecture, which was sponsored by the Namibia Institute of Democracy (NID), was attended by a number of local journalists, lecturers from the university and polytechnic as well as students.