By: Hilma Tuukondjele
The Namibia Media Professions Union (NAMPU) claims that Windhoek Mayor Sade Gawanas has endangered a journalist’s life by releasing the journalist’s personal information.
According to a statement put out by the union earlier today, Gawanas, this week, shared screenshots of a conversation she had with a Confidante reporter revealing the reporter’s private number.
NAMPU’s secretary general, Sakeus Iileka, described the matter as politicians harassing and intimidating journalists whenever they are quoted in stories, and it’s not only limited to Landless People Movement (LPM) politicians.
He explained that what motivated them to issue a statement was the incident where the mayor of Windhoek took to social media to complain about a story in which she appeared that was published by Confidante last week.
“The mayor had every right to give her version of the story and publish it wherever she wanted but what we are concerned with is the sharing of private information of the journalists, such as journalists’ names and cell phone numbers, because those things could be used by anyone who has intentions of harming and intimidating journalists,” he said.
He said intimidation has been present in Namibia for quite some time and explains a personal experience where he was involved with the former mines and energy minister Obeth Kandjoze.
He said that after the incident, the journalists from Confidante told them that she had received numerous calls from unknown numbers insulting and threatening her.
Iileka said that these are the issues that constitute cyberbullying and advised against it being done to journalists and hopes that journalists understand the importance that journalists play in society, such as; informing, educating and entertaining.
He added that there is no framework or platforms where they can report cyberbullying and said that the media Ombudsman is there, but it is to adjudicate the complaints of the media by sources or subjects, and they will be writing to the media Ombudsman to see how he will interpret incidents like these.
“If I have that fear of being exposed by politicians or by someone who holds a public office, I would not do my job as objectively as fairly as I would be because I would cover that politician, and I’d take a soft approach for that politician because if I cover them in a certain way they would come back and rally their members or supporters to come against me and it will end up with a journalist being killed or beaten up.”
He said the purpose of the press statement is to educate and hope that the people understand the importance of the media place and that politicians should know when to interact and behave when they deal with journalists.
The social media post the Gawanas posted led to the journalist being allegedly threatened by the mayor’s supporters and the journalist having a fear of doing her job freely.
The union also stated that it is not the first time LPM leadership has taken issues with journalists to social media. The union further called on politicians and public figures to respect the rights of journalists to carry out their work without interference and be free from intimidation and fear.
LPM deputy leader Henny Seibeb previously labelled a reporter as evil and, in the same statement, Seibeb said that the party would not allow themselves to be bullied by field journalists and haters of the movement.
Namibian Sun editor Toivo Ndjembela said that the mayor of Windhoek was out of order because journalists need to be safe as they engage as Namibians and all stakeholders, including politicians, because if the tables were turned, and a journalist shared private conversations, including numbers with a politician, then they wouldn’t appreciate it either.
“I’m not saying that politicians are obligated to be kind to journalists, but even if they are rude, they ought to be limits on how rude to be to a person, so that was completely unprofessional and totally uncalled for,” he said.
He said that the law that people have been craving on cyberbullying would be one of the interventions to rectify the situation, but the law will not only be for journalists, but it is for the country, and it would be the best option.
“I hold no ill feelings towards what has been said, and this will not stop me from reporting the way that I report about that politician that has made those comments,” he said.
A journalist at The Namibian, Shelleygan Peterson, said that in the past few years, whenever a story is not favourable to a certain organisation, movement or group of people, they often label the journalist as a hater against them or has an agenda.
“As a journalist, you learn very quickly and in your career that this will come, but you just have to get used to it, and it is also highlighted in a report by the internet society that women journalists online have been increasing for the last few years,” she said.
She said that harassment comes with the job, and journalists are prepared to take it on, but when it becomes physical, that’s when it becomes a problem.
Reporting from the two Kavango regions, reporter Kenya Kambowe said that journalists have various assignments and if there are events, they are expected to be there even if they were not communicated with. “It’s common,” he said, that he tries by all means to cover all political parties.