Editors condemn threat to bar press

The Editor's Forum of Namibia has responded strongly against threats by the Speaker, Professor Peter Katjavivi, to ban the media from parliament.

26 September 2018 | Government

The Editors' Forum of Namibia (EFN) has condemned a threat made by National Assembly Speaker Peter Katjavivi to bar journalists from covering National Assembly sessions.

Katjavivi last week slammed journalists in the National Assembly, saying those who used cameras to “spy on politicians” during parliamentary sessions by zooming in on their mobile devices would be barred.

He made the announcement after several parliamentarians had complained they were being spied on.

EFN acting general secretary Ronelle Rademeyer said the EFN learnt with shock and dismay about the attack on the media and the threat by the Speaker to bar parliamentary reporters from attending sessions.

Rademeyer said the Speaker described these journalists' conduct as unprofessional for zooming in on the mobile devices of parliamentarians to view their private content.

This came after the media reported that a parliamentarian had been caught on camera browsing a dating site on a mobile device during a parliamentary session.

“Such unprofessional individuals will not be permitted to cover parliament. It is as simple as that. Because you are basically indulging in unprofessional activities when you zoom in on a particular parliamentarian to check what he's got on his tablet,” Katjavivi said in response to the published photographs.

Rademeyer agreed that it would be unethical for journalists to read personal information on MPs' electronic devices.

“And we know for sure that even with long lenses, it would be impossible to read emails or other personal documentation on something as small as the screen of a smartphone.

“However, if a journalist sitting in the press gallery recognises the look of a certain dating site on a device, it is within their rights to inform citizens of such indiscretions.”

She said the EFN therefore condemns this attack on the media and encourages journalists to do their duty while upholding the forum's code of conduct.

Rademeyer said given the current economic conditions in the country, the forum expects its members to play their full part in helping to turn the tide.

“If it is through being watchdogs of our elected parliamentarians, who represent the citizens in parliament but engage in things other than what they should be doing, such journalists have the backing of the EFN.

“We can only call on our leaders to recognise the important role the media play, and not bar them from doing their jobs. For it will only be to the detriment of the Namibian nation if this was to be.”

According to Rademeyer journalism has long been regarded as vital to the functioning of democracy.

“Edmund Burke said almost two centuries ago: 'There are Three Estates in parliament; but, in the reporters' gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all'.”

She said democracy requires informed citizens. “If the leaders they elected choose to indulge in frivolous activities such as surfing dating sites while they are supposed to contribute to parliamentary debate about pertinent issues, the citizens need to know that.”

ELLANIE SMIT

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