Information, Communication and Technology Minister has urged journalists to continue putting more effort in their work and exposing sensitive information, despite the growing trend of unauthorized surveillance on journalists by tech-companies, spying and keeping tabs on journalists.
Peya Mushelenga also encouraged journalists to ensure that their stories are accurate, reliable and trustworthy and to continue exposing corruption and obtain their information within the scope set by the journalism code of conduct.
Speaking to the activities of some tech companies, Mushelenga said “unauthorised surveillance can
expose information gathered by journalists including from whistle-blowers and may also harm the safety of all involved by disclosing sensitive private information which could be used to threaten the principle of a free and independent press’’.
Therefore, he called on these companies to ensure that they are transparent with their human and automated systems to remain within the framework of democracy and freedom of the press.
Mushelenga said this today at the World Press Freedom celebration at the Namibia University of Science and Technology, NUST.
The Minister said the government is committed to creating a positive and enabling environment for freedom of expression and access to information.
advised the government and all stakeholders, including technological companies to all come on board in ensuring that press freedom is supported in the development plans. “For without freedom of press, democracy will not flourish.”
This year’s WPFD is celebrated under the theme ‘Journalism under Digital Siege’.
The minister stated that inclusive and sustainable press freedom among others was endorsed at last year’s Windhoek +30 Declaration when Namibia hosted the global WPFD in November 2021.
The government is expected to finalise the passing of the Access to Information Bill, which has also gone through the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information, Communication Technology and Innovation and back to the National Assembly.
While awaiting the enactment of the law, ministry will be conducting an Information Access Impact Survey to determine the percentage of people that has access to information and ‘’establish the impact it makes on the citizenry, as well as identify gaps that hinders access to information’’.
The survey, he said, will assess how government can ensure access to information, especially in an ever-changing digital environment.
The United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) representative to Namibia Djaffar Moussa-Elkadhum applauded Namibia for maintaining and improving its press freedom status globally.
According to the 2022 Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders, Namibia despite having dropped one place in Africa from number 1 to 2 in Africa, the country has improved on its international ranking and has moved to 18th in the world.
He called on the social media to serve humanity and also tackle the rampaging disinformation and hate speech, underpinned by freedom of the press.
He further urged tech-companies to come together and develop digital breakthroughs that will best serve their companies and the world at large.
Ambassador Sinikka Antila of the European Union, called on journalists to continue serving their communities by being watchdogs to remind the government to uphold its promise of democracy and freedom of the press.
Antila also alluded that journalism continues to be under threat due to fake news. “Brave journalists risks their lives in order to inform the world, and often they do it via frontline operation and humanitarian”.
Pointing out that, journalist need to constantly upgrade themselves with the new trends emerging, she emphasised that building capacity thus plays a role, urging journalists never to fall back and to reflect on work ethics, professionalism and pay tribute to those who lost their lives.
Additionally, Antila reaffirmed that the EU will continue speaking up for journalists and providing training where necessary to equip journalists with relevant skills and to fight against media manipulation.
Stanley Similo the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation Director General reiterated that technology has not diminished the traditional way of journalism, but rather brought about a change in mentality in envisaging of information dissemination to the public.
Similo emphasized that adaptation to the new trend is inevitable, saying media houses must re-strategise by utilizing the new modernization in order to reach its masses via all media platforms.
Similarly, Similo pointed out that, that perhaps the accessibility of information might differ from person to person depending on the cost involved.
“A person using a smartphone might cost them a lot in accessing information, as compared to having internet at your home or at work, and perhaps that is where we need to look,’’ Similo opined.