Crossposted from MISA (Media Institute of Southern Africa, Windhoek)
The Journalists Association of Namibia (JAN) has expressed concern at increasing intolerance of Namibian government officials towards the right to freedom of expression, including calls for restricting this right and attacks on the integrity of media practitioners. JAN executive member Tom Minney said this May 9 in Windhoek at a function to mark this year's World Press Freedom Day, which JAN used to resubmit a petition handed to Namibian President Sam Nujoma, United Nations Secretary General Butros Butros-Ghali, UNESCO director General Federico Mayor and SADC secretary General Kaire Mbuende in 1994 in Windhoek on World Press Freedom Day.
The petition, whose contents Minney said were considered still valid, called for an end to the harassment of journalists and respect of the right to freedom of expression by SADC governments and other UN member states. Minney called on the Namibian government to restrain its members from launching "further unwarranted attacks on the media, educate its members about the indispensable role of a free, independent and pluralistic media in a democracy, and take urgent steps to encourage respect for the principles proclaimed in the Windhoek Declaration of Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press." In return, JAN pledged to continue to promote and uphold the "highest attainable standards of journalistic ethics and practices" among its membership.
Also, the 1994 petition called for an end to the harassment and imprisonment of media workers by governments in the SADC region, creation of conditions which allow free, independent and pluralistic media to flourish, abolition of all forms of registration and/or licencing of journalists by governments and withdrawal of governments from running media councils and other bodies regulating the media.
In addition, it called for the abolition of excessive taxes "which hinder public access to media and thus the free-flow of information," ensure that state-owned media is run in the "interest of the general public and not in the interests of those in power", and end to "monopolistic control on the means of media production," actively encourage the establishment of community radio stations, and impress upon senior government officials and those in authority "the need to be readily accessible to media workers, whoever they represent" in order to facilitate the free-flow of information from government to the public. The journalists called upon the UN, UNESCO and other relevant bodies to hold accountable those responsible for violations of media freedom.
Meanwhile, MISA's 1996 State of the Media report released on May 3, highlights three SADC countries as main offenders of media freedom in the region. The three include Namibia, others are Zambia and Zimbabwe. ends
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