Our friends at Reporters Without Borders, or Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), in justifying dislodging Namibia from the pinnacles of African press freedom charts, waffled about the state media’s supposed role in that degeneration.
Essentially, RSF is blaming, maybe in part, the state media for the drop in ranking. If our suspicion is correct, we are indeed baffled by such unfounded accusations.
We are keen to hear the specifics of this nefarious justification, which in our view was arrived at lazily and without effort to provide evidence of the supposed self-censorship.
In our observation, there were no changes recorded in the state media fraternity during the period under review. If there were, we challenge RSF to promptly point those out.
The constant isolation of the state media and total disregard for their efforts and success in keeping the nation informed is nauseating. There are hardworking men and women working in the state media space who make massive sacrifices every day to ensure Namibia and the world are well and timely informed.
To dismiss their efforts as if they meant nothing – when in fact it contributes massively to the national and global development agenda – is repulsive.
The Namibian government must be applauded for distinguishing itself from many of its peers who control state media. Its understanding of media independence is at the centre of past top rankings accorded to the country, a fact that cannot be dismissed willy-nilly by anyone, including RSF.
With such freedoms guaranteed, why then would state media censor themselves?
Our primary concern is not the ranking but the blame being placed on the shoulders of the state media for it. It appears as though RSF had to frantically cling onto something to justify its ranking – and the state media inadvertently became the target in this web of desperation.
On a slightly different note, RSF also cited the absence of the access to information law as another contributor to Namibia losing her African raking to Ghana.
On this, we would like to point out what is widely known already – that Ghana too does not have an access to information law. Also, some of the worst ranked countries in the world, like our neighbours Zimbabwe, have such law.
Any research organisation worth its weight in gold knows that in comparative research, the same tools and benchmarks must be used to arrive at a conclusion. We can’t, for example, use access to information as a tool of measurement in one country and not the other – yet draw comparisons between the two countries.
We will not go into the deep sermons of research, but if a law on access to information was RSF’s tool of measuring press freedom, how did Ghana make it to the top then? Or better yet, how did Namibia dominate the charts for consecutive years if having this law was such a critical yardstick?
It is our submission that the access to information law, if implemented to the letter, could help boost transparency but not necessarily press freedom. Transparency is a critical governance element, but having it does not guarantee freedom of the press.