The office of the Ombudsman, set up by the Editors´ Forum of Namibia (EFN), has been working on public outreach to teach both the media and civilians about the principles of media freedom.
In July 2009 the media practitioners of Namibia agreed on the Code of Ethics, which binds the media into the basic principles of good journalistic practice.
According to the Media Ombudsman, Clement Daniels, there is still lot to be done in terms of public awareness.
– Namibian journalists are not yet familiar with self-regulation system. It is important that editors promote the Code of Ethics and the work of Media Ombudsman in their offices, says Daniels.
He has been working part time as the Media Ombudsman, but has been involved in Namibian media field since early 2000, after the first attempts to create Code of Ethics in the country.
Keeping up the dialogue
Media’s self regulatory system is fundamental for a democratic society. In Namibia, the lack of monetary support is making Ombudsman’s publicity work slow.
Also, after only 20 years of independence, the role of media as the fourth estate is still being discussed.
– We are also learning on the way, how to deal with complaints, Daniels says.
Misa Namibia’s newly appointed director Marbeline Mwashekele says that most of the things their organization is fighting is around freedom of the press, freedom of expression, access to information and self regulation.
Clement Daniels reminds what is happening in South Africa at the moment, as the African National Congress (ANC) youth leader Julius Malema is spurring for stronger governmental control over media.
– It could also happen here, he says.
For that reason it is important to keep up the dialogue between media, Government and the public on regular basis.
– Even controversial issues need to become public, Daniels notes.
Juxtaposition down in history
The Deputy Editor of Namibian-German newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung, Eberhard Hofmann, is glad that Namibia has an established a media officer. It is important especially now when South Africa among some other African countries is moving towards media regulation.
– We have a relatively free media environment, except the governmental ban over the Namibian newspaper, says Hofmann, also a chairperson of EFN.
Government cast an advertising ban ten years ago over the country’s leading daily newspaper, the Namibian, for it being too critical.
– I personally as the Chairperson of Editors’ Forum asked the previous minister to spell out the criteria on which government can hold the ban, but she couldn’t give me an answer. I believe it is a matter of principle, Hofmann says.
Marbeline Mwashakele points out that they all are working for the media’s best interest. There should be no juxtaposition in terms of pro- and anti-government among the media practitioners.
– Journalists should understand that it is them we are fighting for. We are the feeding hand.
Text and pic: Annu Halttunen, Windhoek