Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah says not all information can be shared with the media, but gave assurances this week that government is working on programmes to improve communication channels with the press.
Nandi-Ndaitwah said this on Wednesday during a breakfast meeting of the Editors’ Forum of Namibia (EFN). She said government has rules and regulations to follow when disseminating information, but assured the general public that the State does not aim to make it difficult for the media to access information.
“On the contrary, such measures are put in place to ensure that State stakeholders are given the correct information. Of course, not all information can be shared with the media and the general public, sometimes in the interests of national security or to safeguard nationals,” Nandi-Ndaitwah stated.
She also announced that the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, which she heads, is in the process of putting into place a directorate of information and research. The new directorate will be tasked with ensuring the free flow of information.
She also indicated that her ministry would hold quarterly media briefings. “We will ensure that no question from the media stays longer than a week without an official response,” said Nandi-Ndaitwah.
“However, I wish to make it clear that if you ask us a question and we respond, but for whatever reason you decide not to cover it, the next time you come to us do not expect us to respond,” she said.
She called on the media to ensure that their reports are factual at all times, especially when it comes to issues dealing with international relations. “I urge media houses to get the correct facts and verify facts, even if they are obtained from so-called reliable sources,” she said.
The chairperson of the EFN, Joseph Ailonga vowed that editors would continue to strive for ethical reporting and would not in any way compromise on the quality of reporting.
The editors in turn called for open communication channels between the press and government, a more free flow of information and the protection of whistleblowers.
“This can only be achieved by ensuring that an access to information bill is tabled and enacted without delay. I think with government’s current attitude towards the media, we will soon hear of the tabling of this bill,” said Ailonga.
Ailonga also applauded government for the openness shown in recent years towards the media. “The danger, however, is that this can all go away tomorrow if we have no legislation to ensure that civil servants serve the electorate and should be accountable to them at all times. Public information should never be held in secrecy,” he argued.