THE Access to Information in Namibia (ACTION) Coalition has urged the National Assembly to refer the Whistleblowers’ Protection Bill to a Parliamentary standing committee for investigation.
The coalition said this was request was necessitated after seeing that the bill contains “several” serious flaws.
“In order to allow time to address those shortcomings, the ACTION Coalition of civil society organisations, is calling on the National Assembly to refer the Bill to a Standing Committee which can investigate these issues further and hold a public hearing to allow for citizen input.
“Unless the Whistleblowers’ Protection law has the confidence of the Namibian public, it will fail to achieve its aim of encouraging those who know of wrongdoing to come forward to report such matters in the public interest while receiving protection from retaliation.”
The flaws that need to be addressed according to the Coalition are section 52 (1d), which deals with the grounds on which whistleblowers’ protection can be revoked. Section 52 (1d) states that a whistleblower can have their protection revoked if his or her disclosure involves criticism of a Government policy.
“But more fundamentally Section 52 (1d) is unconstitutional – in that it violates the whistleblowers’ rights to freedom of expression and thought (Article 21 (1a &b) of the Constitution). Article 17 (1) of the Constitution also states that: All citizens shall have the right to participate in peaceful political activity intended to influence the composition and policies of the Government.
“Section 52 (1d) is blatantly unconstitutional. It will in fact discourage people from disclosing suspected cases of corruption, especially if there is a perception that such corrupt practices are official policy. This provision will ensure that less and less people will be willing to expose themselves to the wrath of this law.”
The Coalition further said that, the second area of concern is Section 30 (5a), which states that a person who intentionally makes a disclosure while knowing it is false commits an offence.
“On conviction that person is liable to a fine not exceeding N$100 000 or a prison term not exceeding 20 years. We do not believe that criminal sanctions for false reporting will serve the intended purpose of the Bill. It has to be remembered that any person who deliberately makes a false report will not receive protection under the Bill and could therefore face potential dismissal or disciplinary action at their workplace. Depending on the nature of the false disclosure and its impact, they could also face a defamation case”.
ACTION is an umbrella group of organisations which advocates for greater access to information and freedom of expression in Namibia.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015