By: Ludorf Iyambo
Information minister Peya Mushelenga has called on technology companies to counter misinformation and disinformation with accessible, factual and evidence-based information and avoid excessive efforts that could result in censorship of protected speech.
Mushelenga said this at the World Press Freedom celebration on Thursday in Windhoek.
The minister said there is a growing trend globally where technology companies monitor the work of journalists and information shared by their sources.
He said unauthorised surveillance can expose information gathered by journalists, including from whistle-blowers, and may harm the safety of all involved by disclosing sensitive private information, which could be used to threaten the principle of a free and independent press.
“It is, therefore, important at this occasion to make a call to technology companies globally to ensure that they are transparent with their human and automated systems to remain within the framework of democracy and freedom of the press,” said Mushelenga.
Mushelenga said the government is taking steps to foster diversity and viable public, private and community media and implement specific policies and relevant safeguards.
This, he said, is to promote the production of independent, quality journalism to ensure people’s access to relevant, diverse and reliable information.
“Without freedom of the press, democracy would not flourish. Therefore, it is our responsibility as stakeholders to continue protecting the independence of the media and promote the freedom of the press while encouraging the media to be responsible and disseminate accurate and fact-based information,” he said.
European Union ambassador to Namibia, Sinikka Antila, said independent and committed journalists and media face harassment, violence, and intimidation.
She said a free press allows for a more democratic, more robust and inclusive society and is instrumental in protecting and promoting human rights.
“We will continue to fight for press freedom and not pull back,” she said.
Antila said the safety of journalists and media freedom worldwide is a priority.
“This will enable us to achieve transparency, accountability, and the rule of law; encourage participation in public and political discourse; and contribute to poverty alleviation,” said Antila.
Deputy chairperson of the Editor’s Forum of Namibia (EFN), Djaffar Moussa Elkadhum, said that more than five in six people worldwide live in a country that experienced a decline in press freedom over the past five years.
Elkadhum concluded that 400 journalists were killed during the same period just for doing their jobs.