Judgement in The Patriot’s gag case reserved

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Roland Routh

Windhoek-Windhoek High Court Judge Harald Geier on Friday reserved his judgement in the matter in which the Namibia Central Intelligence Agency (NCIS) wants to prevent The Patriot newspaper from publishing details about its properties, including two farms and a residence in Windhoek West.

The judge indicated that he will endeavour to make his ruling on or before May 31.
The NCIS dragged the newspaper and its editor, Mathias Haufiku, to court after Haufiku informed them through a text message that he intends to publish an article chronicling the manner in which the secret service is utilising the said properties.

Promptly, a letter from the government attorneys followed threatening legal action should Haufiku not refrain from publishing the article. According to the NCIS, the article would compromise national security.
After Haufiku refused to withdraw the article and sent follow-up questions to the Government Attorney, NCIS launched an urgent application in the High Court to stop the article from going public.

It asked the court to interdict the newspaper and/or its editor from publishing, circulating and or distributing any article or information that relates to the properties and or assets of the NCIS.

It further asks the High Court to interdict and restrain the newspaper and or its editor from publishing and or distributing any information that falls within the scope of sensitive matter as defined in the Protection of Information Act, as well as any classified information as defined in the Namibia Central Intelligence Service Act.
The NCIS also wants the court to interdict and restrain the newspaper or Haufiku from publishing any information they obtained in contravention of the NCIS Act.

Alternatively, it also wants a final interdict in relation to the prayers asked for in the urgent application as well as an order for costs on the scale of attorney and own client.

In an affidavit filed at the court, the Director General of the NCIS, Phillemon Malima, states that the NCIS Act prohibits anyone without security clearance from the NCIS to possess, circulate or publish information about the NCIS that falls within the scope of being sensitive or classified information.

“Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any law, no inspection, investigation, revision or audit which in terms of any law has to be or may be done in connection with any matter or document concerning the Service or the Account, shall be done, unless the person who has to or may do such inspection, investigation, revision or audit has received a security clearance for that purpose,” Malima said.

According to Advocate Dennis Khama, who represented the NCIS on instructions of the Government Attorney, the law confers the power to investigate and analyse threats to the NCIS, and any exposing of their operations or places of operation could endanger that mandate.

While journalists have the right and obligation to be suspicious and entitled to ask questions, they cannot be allowed to publish sensitive information that might pose a threat to national security, Khama argued.
On the other hand, Norman Tjombe who represents the newspaper and Haufiku argued that the publication of alleged corrupt practices at the NCIS cannot be defined as classified or sensitive information.

According to him, the NCIS came to court with “half-baked information” and expects the court to cover up their “inappropriate spending of government money”. He wanted to know whether the general public is not allowed to know about corrupt practices – whatever the department. “Every person is entitled to know about corruption and the media’s job is to inform them,” Tjombe said.

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