It is beyond comprehensible the level of abuse we journalists encounter simply because we are doing our jobs. We will not tip toe around you because we are afraid to be in your wrong books, and we might just encounter your wrath.
Sometimes, but rarely, journalists are physically abused by a source because of a negative article the journalist wrote on the person. Mostly and commonly, journalists are verbally abused because the person they are speaking to disregards the journalism profession and feels they are personally being attacked while it is not even the case.
We are, however, privileged to be journalists in Namibia because we do not get kidnapped or beaten to death like in other states. Recently, a Zimbabwean journalist disappeared after he became vocal about the elite members of society. At least in Namibia, we are safe and sound.
We have freedom of speech as journalists in the country. Unlike other states where they are censored, and if they write about the untouchables, they would disappear off the face of the earth. But despite that, we cannot accept being verbally and emotionally abused by sources in the country simply because they feel like they are untouchable. The abuse is just too extreme, and at times you might argue that it is because we chose this career and that we should expect it.
But we are human beings for crying out loud. Are we seen as dogs or what? Or do we have dog-like features that warrant you to insult us and send us away like infidels?
To cement the above statement, a fellow journalist from the Namibian Sun was recently insulted by the Swapo Party Secretary General, Nangolo Mbumba. My fellow comrade in the journalism struggle was told to ‘Voetsek’. Voetsek is a term that is normally used to chase dogs away and it is not right by all means to say it to humans. Clearly the journalist enquired about a simple matter and the SG could have just said, “I do not want to speak to you about this matter or I am not the right person to provide you with this information.” But no, comrade SG had to say “Voetsek”, maybe because the journalist in question has dog-like features. Honestly, maybe the SG did not understand the questions, and all he could hear coming from the journalist in question was barking sounds.
Aye, we cannot condone such ill practices. We deserve respect as fellow human beings. And, we deserve respect towards our profession the same way you demand our respect for yours.
To bring it closer to myself, a public relations officer from a certain company hung up the phone in my ear. No, seriously it happened, I kid you not. All I did was enquire about how far along my responses were and by roughly what time I could expect them, and the person yelled at me before slamming the phone in my ear. I was left in awe, but I was mostly dumbstruck by the fact that a fellow, adult journalist would slam the phone in my ear instead of answering simple questions simply because they felt irritated. Now this same type of person feels offended when we bypass them and go straight to their bosses because we want to avoid ill treatment.
Seriously though, do not take me being a journalist as a personal attack because it is not. I am simply just doing my job. Besides, the information I am requesting from you is public information. At times, people force us journalists to give in to their rude antics. We just end up telling them to keep the information. It’s easy, just tell me that are unable to be of assistance and I will be off your back.
Now I just mentioned two case scenarios, but there are many journalists who have gone through verbal, physical and sometimes emotional abuse. Honestly, we cannot accept it. Our working environment is not the most conducive, and we really try hard to make you the source.