Freedom of the Press - Namibia (2006)
|Publication Date||27 April 2006|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press - Namibia (2006), 27 April 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/473451d84b.html [accessed 12 December 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Legal Environment: 8
Political Influences: 10
Economic Pressures: 12
Total Score: 30
Life Expectancy: 46
Religious Groups: Christian (80-90 percent), indigenous beliefs (10-20 percent)
Ethnic Groups: Black (87.5 percent), white (6 percent), mixed (6.5 percent)
Namibia's constitution guarantees freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respects these rights in practice. The country's press is considered one of the freest on the continent. Independent media routinely criticize the government, though government pressure and sensitivity to negative coverage have led to some self-censorship. The Freedom of Information Act, introduced in 1999 as a fundamental component of the government's anticorruption initiative, remained ineffectual until 2005. According to local journalists, the legislation, which was intended to improve access to information in both the public and private sectors, may soon begin to play a more active role in combating the corruption that it was originally designed to address.
The most serious media restrictions in Namibia have been isolated incidents in which the government has canceled advertisements in a few newspapers for their supposedly critical coverage. In addition, some restrictions have been sought in media coverage of the mass trials of accused secessionists from the Caprivi region. In December, the youth league of the ruling SWAPO party called for restrictions on "cancerous, racist, and parasitic media operators" after some newspapers reported critically on former president Sam Nujoma's role in a 1989 battle with South African forces.
Eight newspapers are in circulation, six of which are privately owned. There are at least 11 private radio stations and 2 private television stations that broadcast in English and German. A subscription satellite television service broadcasts CNN, BBC, and a range of South African and international news and entertainment programs. In October, the Katutura Community Radio station – the country's "foremost grassroots outlet," according to the International Press Institute – began to broadcast again after being forced to shut down because of financial issues. Private radio stations and newspapers usually operate without official interference, but reporters for state-run media have been subjected to indirect and direct pressure to avoid reporting on controversial topics. While many journalists insist that the state-run Namibia Broadcasting Corporation enjoys complete freedom to criticize the government, others believe that it is biased toward the ruling party. Although Nujoma appointed himself minister of information and broadcasting for a period in 2004, no significant problems were experienced during his tenure. There are no government restrictions on the internet, and several print publications have popular websites.