News and Information

MPs want limits to press freedom
August 4, 2004

THE country's media institutions were lambasted in the National Council yesterday, with Swapo MP for Omusati, Johnny Hakaye, going as far as calling for legislation to curtail the freedom of the press.

"How much more freedom do we need to give to our media in this country? Already they are everywhere," moaned Hakaye.

Councillors appeared to be distracted from discussing amendments to the Namibian Press Agency Act and instead used the platform to criticise the independent media.

"[They] can make use of any vulgar words.

Some words you can hardly find in those pocket dictionaries given to the National Assembly.

[They] throw any word to anybody and that is freedom of the press," said Hakaye.

He pleaded with MPs to support a submission to the Minister of Information and Broadcasting to impose restrictions on the country's media, especially the print media.

"The print ones and even the electronic ones claim to be anonymous, but one day they will definitely invite danger to this country and are equally inviting danger at their own door steps," Hakaye said.

He was supported by Ohangwena Councillor Noah Tuhadeleni who warned newspapers against "igniting hatred and political chaos, which is meant to weaken our policy of national reconciliation".

"To keep Namibia as a united people, firmly secured from foreign information intruders and separatist influential news, a limiting character needs to be enforced," he said.

Hakaye asked the House whether freedom of the press was above democracy and if it enjoyed more privileges than other freedoms.

He claimed that throughout the world the freedom of the press was being "abused to further distract and even instigate civil unrest in our countries".

Omusati Regional Councillor Generosa Andowa was also of the opinion that newspapers were abusing their rights.

"We learn a lot from them, but some are agencies of other countries," she alleged.

"We have experienced from newspapers in this country that they don't like to report the truth.

They misquote people deliberately."

She singled out a report in the Windhoek Observer during May, to illustrate her point, claiming that it "distorted and insulted our leaders, especially Comrade President".

She said the news media should refrain from "abusing" the country's leaders.

Khomas Councillor Erasmus Hendjala was of the opinion that the interest of journalists should lie with their community.

"We have a lot of news in this country.

Editors are killing the news," he said, as other councillors piped up in agreement saying "yes, like the Listers [reference to The Namibian's Editor]".

"I'm talking as a journalist.

I know what I'm talking about," he claimed.

He alleged that Namibian newspapers were using the power of information to destroy the country.

Hendjala alleged that they were misleading and "misinforming" those who were not used to a culture of reading and interpreting information.

He referred to electronic letters written under the pen name 'Ananias Nghifitikeko' on purported divisions within Swapo.

Hendjala went as far as to claim that in fact journalists were behind the letters.

The House then agreed to pass the Bill to the committee stage.


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