The Namibia 2022 African Media Barometer (AMB) Report and various media experts have flagged the increased harassment of journalists and civil society by state agencies as a major concern for the media.
However, overall, the report shows that Namibia’s media environment remains free to a larger extent, with some significant declines in some indicators compared to 2018.
The 7th edition of the AMB Report by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Namibia office together with its regional media project, Fesmedia, Africa, was released last week in Windhoek.
The main objective of the AMB is to monitor developments in the media and democratic processes at country and regional levels and provide platforms and tools for dialogue among stakeholders.
Beyond journalists and civil society harassment, the panelists that discussed the result of the report also highlighted that the Cybercrime Bill and the mandatory registration of SIM cards may be used to block internet content.
At the same time, state surveillance of journalists and civil society was mentioned as a worrying development.
The other negative development noted in the report was the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) strike and continuing economic woes at the public broadcaster.
The Institute of Public Policy Research’s (IPPR) Research Associate, Frederico Links explained that the developing trends in the country are leaning more towards the negative.
“There’s too much happening beyond the hour of the media landscape that will continue to impact the sector,” said Links.
Panelist and senior journalist at the Namibian Sun, Jemima Beukes, stated, “It is important that we are trailblazers in terms of press freedom. We are doing fairly well but there are some issues such as compensation in the newsroom”.
Additionally, it has been highlighted that the country needs to uphold the repertoire in terms of where it is lacking and how to address the highlighted issues.
Audrin Mate, executive director of the Ministry of Information and Communication acknowledged that there are still challenges faced by media houses even though Namibia ranks as one of the best in terms of press freedom.
He also indicated that presently the government supports the media industry.
There are 18 private commercial radio stations, 10 public stations, and two community stations.
Furthermore, the country has seven television stations and about 11 newspapers.
Mathe said the media uses the best channels to understand what happens in the most rural places and where decisions are being made.
The report maintains that Namibia remains a leading example of press freedom in Africa and the world, although there is room for improvement.
It highlights the passing of the Access to Information Bill by the National Assembly as a positive development in Namibia’s media landscape, and states that the bill is progressive as it will facilitate the public’s access to information held by public and relevant private bodies.
It also commends the increasing plurality in the media in Namibia and the formation of the Namibia Media Professionals Union (NAMPU) to address matters related to working conditions and the safety of journalists.
In addition, the report also extols the increasing editorial independence at the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and the granting of permanent employment to its former contract workers.
The AMB is an in-depth and comprehensive description system of national media environments on the African continent based on home-grown criteria.
These criteria are derived from African Protocols and Declarations like the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa (2002) by the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), making it a home-grown index.
To safeguard the high quality, integrity, and reputation of the AMB both locally and regionally, Fesmedia Africa has commissioned a fact-check by Namibia Fact Check to examine the three (3) points that were reported as factual errors in the media following the launch of the report.
The findings of the fact-check will be shared with the public, once the process has been concluded.
The AMB report presents an opportunity for all stakeholders, including government actors to engage in dialogue.
Moreover, it seeks to collectively come up with interventions to preserve the gains in press freedom and access to information that has been seen in the past and tackle the emerging challenges identified.
The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung has indicated that it stands ready to support all stakeholders and provide platforms for constructive debate and engagement on key issues and recommendations.