An information officer working for the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology in Oshikoto Region had her equipment confiscated by the Oshana police on Friday when she was taking photos at an accident scene while she was on official duty.
The incident, at which Josephine Mwashindange was accompanied by her colleague Ester Noongo, a media officer, said she suffered humiliation and emotional torture at the hands of the police while she was taking pictures at Iihwali village where a pedestrian was bumped by a police Volvo truck.
The two journalists were on their way to their duty station at Omuthiya, after they earlier delivered video inserts for the local news bulletin for national broadcaster NBC at Oshakati.
Police, who seemed overzealous, also apparently used abusive language towards the pair, particularly Mwashindange whose cellphone and camera were confiscated, despite informing police officers that they were information officers on duty.
Mwashindange says a certain Inspector Kayele told her to ‘behave like a human being’.
“I was so humiliated by her insults. I tried explaining to her [Kayele] that we are from the information ministry and were just gathering news because that is our duty. In fact we arrived at the scene 20 minutes earlier than them,” she recalled.
“She just kept on shouting and yelling at me as if I was a small kid,” a distressed Mwashindange further noted.
“After that she proceeded to take my cellphone and camera.” Mwashindange urged police authorities to take Kayele to task for her unprofessional conduct.
Acting regional commander of Oshana, Deputy Commissioner Nico Steenkamp confirmed the confiscation of the journalists’ tools of trade, but said the information he got was that the duo did not introduce themselves as journalist when the police arrived. This is despite the fact that journalists were first at the scene.
“She [Kayele] confiscated and got angry because they did not introduce themselves and only found out later when she handed over the case to Warrant Ayaka who is the station commander of Onayena as the incidence happened under his jurisdiction,” explained Steenkamp.
A year ago, New Era journalist Nuusita Ashipala was humiliated by Oshana police in front of her minor son, when she tried to take pictures of suspects that the police had arrested. The incident was condemned by the Namibian chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and captured in the 2016 report of global human rights watchdog, Amnesty International.
Namibia declined by seven places on the 2017 global press freedom index by Reporters Without Borders. Closer analysis of the index showed that while Namibia, ranked top in Africa, retained the same score as last year, other countries did better to move above Namibia.