Are attacks on the media justified?

20 November 2019 | Columns

Local media have come under attack in recent days, particularly from functionaries of government and Swapo.

Perhaps the biggest attack on the industry came from Tjekero Tweya, ironically a former minister of information, who should have tamed his loose tongue that branded journalists “flies”.

At the same occasion, where he was introducing aspiring foreign investors into a Namibian project, he also called journalists “bad, bad Namibians” and “unpatriotic”. Tweya, now the minister of trade, was seemingly irked by media scrutiny that government decisions and actions are rightly subjected to.

In the space of two weeks, we also witnessed statements from State House spokesperson Alfredo Hengari, who first accused The Namibian of subjecting “willy-nilly judgment on the decisions of President Hage Geingob”, and secondly accusing New Era of malicious reporting, also on the president.

Geingob himself last weekend accused the media of being “desperate to destroy Swapo”, without providing a basis for his outrageous claim, except saying the ruling party is not enjoying adequate coverage locally.

True, the media is not holier than though and certainly not above criticism and scrutiny. There is a general admission that the work of the media has not always been beyond reproach, but this does not justify calling people “bad Namibians” and “flies”.

Tweya’s insults were unsolicited and directed at people who simply responded positively to an invitation by his office. It sounds as though he deliberately invited journalists so that he could belittle and humiliate them in front of an investor.

We want to categorically state that we do not suggest that the media may not be scrutinised or criticised. If anything, the industry is generally amenable to criticism, because it helps spark introspection. But when critique borders on outright insults, labelling and intimidation, we have every reason to fear that we are crawling into a very dangerous space, which can change the way the world looks at Namibia as a thriving democracy, where the media operates free of attacks and intimidation.

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