…Access to Information Bill to be tabled this month
Eric Nyasha Mhunduru
INFORMATION and Communication Technology Minister, Stanley Simataa has expressed concern over the continued drop in Namibia’s world rankings on press freedom, now at 26th pipping 23rd ranked Ghana .
Simataa said it was sad that Namibia had lost its position on the African continent as a champion for media freedom and highlighted the need to relook at the causes for the drop and make sure that the country regains its glory days.
He also took a swipe at inaccuracies that have bedeviled the media industry mainly due to the increase in fake news mainly from online media sources that the Minister said were quick to go public with information without verifying the authenticity of their facts hence misleading people and were not able to retract these afterwards.
Simataa said government’s desire to top the global rankings in terms of media freedom was still burning.
“It is for this reason that the Ministry will soon sanction a thorough review and analysis of what has led to our steady decline in the global rankings over the past two years with a view to devise appropriate interventions that will see our country once again break into the top 20, subsequently top 10,” he said.
Simataa further added that, “We commit ourselves to objectively analyse the reasons for such a decline and further devise an appropriate intervention strategy so as to reclaim our number one spot on the continent and even try to beat Norway who are the world leader in press freedom.
“The Government remains committed to the independence of the media and will not impede their operations.
“We have to bring back Namibia to its glory days and maintain the leader position and we cannot blame it on the lack of laws, looking at the country that beat us Ghana does not also have the Access to Information Bill in place, so it is possible to get back there and the ball is in our court to make it happen as a matter urgency.
Namibia Media Trust’s Chairperson, Gwen Lister also reiterated the issue of fake news but was quick to say call for the need to educate the general public for them to be able to differentiate between fake news and real news.
The head of the EU Delegation to Namibia, Ambassador Jana Hybaskova also said recognising the contribution of the media and journalists in line with this year’s theme could only take place in a conducive and enabling environment for press freedom.
Hybaskova paid tribute to the government on the progress made so far to put the Access to Information Bill in place and in general for the level of press freedom that prevails in the country.
She however was quick to note that having information available or even a Bill does not automatically empower the public or hold those in power accountable.
“Credible and independent journalism of course remains as important – since we have recently seen examples where news organizations have been accused of disseminating reports to influence the political landscape.
“The legal battle that Facebook now encounters shows the challenges online data and our digital age brings. These situations can unfortunately result in over-regulation and censorship,” said Hybaskova.
At the event, Minister Simataa also revealed that on the cards were two Bills, the Electronics Transactions and Cybercrime Bill (ECT bill) and the Access to Information Bill, which he defended the former and said the later will be tabled in parliament this month (May) and should be ready for enactment by 20 September this year.
Simataa said the Cybercrime Bill was not to spy on the media or anyone but to protect vulnerable in society who were being abused such as issues of people who used social media to defame others especially former lovers, by sending derogatory information about them.
He said these were some of the ills that the Cybercrime Bill sort to address in society and make sure that those perpetrators are taken to book.
The Minister was speaking at the World Press Freedom Day celebrations held in Windhoek on Tuesday, held under the national theme, ‘Sustainability of the media in Namibia’.
Reporters Without Borders announced that although Namibia’s Constitution guarantees free speech and protects journalists, the lack of a freedom of information law continues to obstruct their work.
Simataa also further added that, “The Access to Information Bill should be tabled in Parliament later this month and we should make sure for debate on any outstanding issues. This should pave way for any technicalities that may come up and during the debate to be included in the final document that should be passed by 20 September 2018. “This legislation has been lagging for some time now and we are confident that this will happen during these set dates and if we may fail we will definitely make sure that we have it in place by the end of 2018 without fail.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015