MISA Namibia has condemned the recent physical assault of New Era journalist Nuusita Ashipala by a Namibian police officer at Oshakati. A certain Constable Kandina assaulted Ashipala, who was covering a news event at Game shopping complex in Oshakati on December 5.
Ashipala was slapped twice and locked-up in a police van for about half an hour for taking pictures of an arrest underway at the shopping centre. She was also ordered to delete the pictures from her camera.
Fortunately, an officer of higher rank rescued her from her predicament, and also sought to explain the role of the media to the police officers present at the scene.
Ashipala, who laid a charge of common assault against Constable Kandina, expressed her concern regarding the treatment of journalists in northern Namibia, noting that they are prevented from doing their work and that most officers of the law do not understand the role of the press.
“The Namibian police are guilty of several media freedom violations over the past two years. We are greatly concerned by the increase in assaults, threats and intimidation of Namibian journalists by those mandated to uphold the law and protect human rights,” MISA national director Natasha Tibinyane said in a statement issued yesterday.
“We call upon Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga to urgently include a module on the role of the media, and how to engage with the media, in the training of police officers, as the continuation of the current situation could only lead to the further deterioration of our much-lauded media freedom,” she said.
“We further call upon Minister of Information and Communication Technology Tjekero Tweya to please engage with all government stakeholders on how important media freedom is for the strengthening and building of our constitutional democracy.”
In order to find a solution to the current situation, MISA Namibia said it has committed itself to engaging with the information ministry and the police early in 2016.
“Although we have concerns, the Namibian media industry remains one of the best in the region. We cannot allow a situation where State officials are the ones undoing the gains made over the past 25 years,” said Tibinyane.
“We also call upon media practitioners and members of the public to please alert us directly when their right to freedom of expression, including media freedom, is violated, regardless of who commits the violation.”
New Era Publication Corporation managing editor Toivo Ndjebela sought an explanation from Oshana police regional commander Rauha Amwele, on what she was doing about the assault, but despite promising to provide feedback, she has not done so yet.