By: Kelvin Chiringa
The Namibia Central Intelligence Service will in the meantime have to wait for a Supreme Court judgement that will decide whether alleged secret information published by The Patriot last year is illegal and invalid or not.
The national spy agency (NCIS) squared off with the publication this week Monday at the Supreme Court before deputy judge president Damaseb to challenge a High Court defeat that led to publication of information argued to be of national security significance.
Such information relates to a farm that was allegedly purchased to be occupied by former intelligence operatives who are part of an association said to be funded by tax payers’ money.
But the fact that such information is now in the public means the agency has no other option but to have it declared as invalid and have the paper’s conduct ruled as illegal.
The deputy judge president had issues with the intelligence organisation’s arguments suggesting that the point of national security frustrated the media’s efforts to expose alleged corruption.
“If a journalist has information on people doing human trafficking and that they are linked to central intelligence, what should I do? Should I not approach the NCIS to say you are dealing with an illegal entity?” he queried.
Apparently, the paper’s former editor who was key to the investigations asked for the NCIS’s director general to confirm or deny the allegations which, as the court heard, he didn’t.
The NCIS’s lawyer submitted that doing so would have obliged him to break his oath of office which hinged on keeping secret information secret.
The judge president countered by stating that the media “assist us to promote a democratic society”.
On the said farms, the judge president asked what if they were being used for other purposes that had nothing to do with the NCIS.
The lawyer also submitted that the journalist’s questions had nothing to do with corruption, an aspect which only appeared for the first time in court documents.
“The questions were not designed to honestly engage the director general,” the lawyer said.
However, the judge president put it to him the fact that the journalist was asking about tax payers’ money being paid to retired intelligence operatives meant corruption was at the core of the queries.
Yet the lawyer countered this by saying that if the money disbursed to the NCIS had been used for corruption, it should have been picked out by the auditor general who does their books.
The paper’s lawyer, Norman Tjombe put it to the court in his submissions that the NCIS were trying to keep secret what already was in the public domain.
He said responsible journalism meant that a reporter approaches responsible authorities to seek clarity, which in this case was done.
However the judge queried why the paper did not approach the Anti-Corruption Commission.
“What sort of answer was the director general supposed to give which does not jeopardize their work?” he pressed to which Tjombe responded by saying that he wouldn’t know.
The matter is currently being contemplated for a final judgement to be delivered at an undisclosed date.