Namibians Denied Right to Information by Government

13 May 2011

 By Nghidipo Nangola

 Nangola is a film maker and producer

May 3 is World Press Freedom Day and Namibia can pat itself on the shoulder for having guaranteed the freedom for journalists to collect, produce and disseminate information without hindrance. Aside of a few local journalists being roughed up by overzealous security men and one or two foreign journalists detained by Police, Namibia’s blemish remains the denial of citizens to access information.

Our Constitution is clear about freedom of the media under the ambit of the Bill of Rights and Fundamental Freedoms as enshrined in Chapter 3 of the Namibian Constitution.

Having freedom of the media is largely meaningless without the right to information. The biggest obstacle to developing an equitable society and the creation of wealth is corruption, incompetent government officials and wastage of taxpayers’ money.

The Government of President Hifikepunye Pohamba had promised tough action against corruption, but its actions seem to suggest contrary to its resolution to fight corruption tooth and nail.

Namibians are denied the right to information by the Government which instead is shielding corrupt officials that are making it difficult to solve the acute social problems affecting our country, such as unemployment, basic housing and lack of quality education and unequal distribution of wealth.

Citizens need to be told the truth about the tens of reports and commissions of inquiries that are gathering dust in the Office of the President.

The UN’s Human Rights Commission did praise Namibia for upholding freedom of the media early this year, but that’s not the whole story. What about the right to be told the truth in a transparent and accountable manner?

By not releasing the reports of the commissions of inquiries, it points to a Government that is actually encouraging corruption by denying the media and its citizens the right to be informed about the truth.

Denying media and citizens their right to information is, by default, a violation of the very same freedoms enshrined in the Constitution. Why are reports of corruption not made freely available to the media and subsequently to the citizens of the country?

Namibia has also actually taken 10 steps backwards in media freedom by passing the “Spy Bill” and violating its citizens’ right to privacy.

Our Constitution is indirectly being circumvented by a Government that is not accountable to its citizens and not accountable to anybody but itself.

If Government was transparent it would have gotten to the root of the millions if not billions of dollars now missing, embezzled and siphoned from the ministries and State agencies.

If the Government was transparent it would have indeed acted on the GIPF saga 10 years ago. Instead it tried to humiliate whistle-blowers who wanted to bring corruption to the attention of the nation.

Therefore, freedom of the media, specifically the right to information in Namibia, is a myth. It shows that our leaders are ruling the country as if it were their own property, not on behalf of its citizens.

In a government that upholds transparency and democracy, there’s no need to hide information from the media and own citizens. Without information, development in all sectors of the economy will be hard to achieve.

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