By Confidente Reporter
PRESIDENT Hage Geingob says that the local media must guard against becoming lapdogs or attack dogs, and should rather be watchdogs.
Speaking at a World Press Freedom Day commemoration on Wednesday, the Head of State said, “They (the media) must also nourish their critical minds with critical thinking. I know that in the real world the press has to pay bills, but this consideration need not be in conflict with the theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day.”
World Press Freedom Day is normally observed on 3 May each year.
Geingob said he was delighted that this year’s World Press Freedom Day was being commemorated under a very appropriate theme, ‘Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies’.
“This theme is not new to us who have sought to advance the narrative of the Namibian House, which seeks to establish a peaceful, just and inclusive society,” the Head of State said.
“We are happy that our media plays a very important role in advancing this cause. This congruence in the theme of the Media Freedom Day, and our own perspective for the Namibian House, is most encouraging.
Geingob said he has often talked about the Namibian House, “made of bricks of different shapes and colours, representing the people of Namibia”.
He said that the mortar is the country’s laws, and the foundation of the house is the constitution.
“This Namibian House is plastered, with plaster, signifying our common destiny, regardless of race or ethnicity.
“I perceive our media, the Fourth Estate, to be the windows of the Namibian House, allowing new ideas to flow in and at the same time seeking to interpret and inform on the view inside.
“If such be the case, the Fourth Estate, bears an enormous responsibility of playing its role in strengthening the Namibian House.”
Geingob said when government speaks of introducing checks and balances, with regard to the press, “we are not calling for our journalists to be muzzled; rather we are calling upon our journalists to practice their journalism with a clear conscience, liberated by accountability”.
Geingob added that as long as he is given the mandate to lead the country, “the freedom of the press is guaranteed”.
He added that today Namibia prides itself on its governance architecture, which is rooted in democracy, unity, peace, stability and the rule of law.
“Our press, as observers of our political process, form part and parcel of our governance architecture, with the responsibility of making sure that elected officials are held accountable and deliver on the promises made,” Geingob said.
“In an age where the consumption of media has become just as necessary as food and clothing, Namibia is proud of the fact that we have the freest press in Africa. In fact, our press freedom index still outranks long-established democracies, such as France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.”
Geingob said he wants Namibian media to be the “freest in the world’.
“We are talking about being number one not just in Africa, but in the world. I often talk of the formula I have conceived: accountability plus transparency equals trust.
“For trust to be established, we need both accountability and transparency. It does not take a genius to see that media has an enormous responsibility in this process.”
The Head of State said that in a world where freedom of the press is curtailed, people become their own news bearers, “and we end up with a flood of unsanitised and unverified information, and the newly coined concept of fake news.
“Media diversity, including social media, have brought new challenges with them. Today, everyone is a journalist! That makes it difficult for anyone to get reliable news.”
He said in this new environment, newspapers have gained a new respect.
“Even the television newscasters refer to the print media to give credence to their broadcasts.”
Geingob said that free media wields great power to effect change.
“For this reason, the media practitioners need to keep in mind always that with great power comes great responsibility.”
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