MISA Namibia condemns assault on journalist by SWAPO leader
27 AUGUST 2014, WINDHOEK NAMIBIA – The Namibia Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Namibia) condemns, in the strongest terms, the physical and verbal assault by ruling party SWAPO councilor Ambrosius Kandjii on a Senior Producer for Radio at the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) on 13 August 2014.
We further call upon President of the SWAPO Party and President of the Republic of Namibia, His Excellency Hifikepunye Pohamba, to hold Kandjii accountable, and publicly condemn his deplorable actions. The assaulted journalist refrained from laying a criminal charge against Kandjii because she fears for her life. “He may not be happy to go to court and get thugs to hurt me,” she told MISA Namibia. It is important to note that her fear is well-founded because Kandjii has a history of violence. She further noted that she prefers to remain anonymous to protect her children from victimization. She received medical attention for an injury she sustained when he threw a chair at her.
The assault took place in the NBC‟s radio studio, after he entered the studio, without her authorization or knowledge, while she was live on air just before 8am. He questioned her about coverage for a public meeting to be addressed by Prime Minister Hage Geingob on the controversial Third Constitutional Amendment Bill later that day. She informed him that she had no knowledge of the meeting as she has not received any notification in that regard. He called her a liar and accused her of promoting official opposition party Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP). He also told her that it was a “SWAPO‟s studio”, and not the public‟s. An argument ensued and she had to call security to have him removed from the studio.
She now lives in fear for her life when at work because she does not know how Kandjii gained access to the studio. “Only two access cards can open that studio, mine and my colleague‟s. So, I‟m worried about my safety at my workplace too because someone gave him an access card to get in, and I don‟t know who.”
MISA Namibia calls upon NBC Director General Albertus Aochamub to investigate how Kandjii gained access to the studio, and to hold the person responsible accountable. We also call upon you to ban Kandjii from entering the premises of the NBC in future since, by allowing him back in, you would be sending the message that assaulting journalists is acceptable. You would also be telling the country that the life and safety of a journalist is less important than the opinion of a politician. We also call upon you to publicly condemn the attack.
The attack was the culmination of a month-long unprecedented attack on Namibia‟s democracy and media by political leaders, most notably Prime Minister Geingob. The attack on democracy came in the form of the Third Constitutional Amendment Bill, which, in essence, undermines the principle of the separation of powers, as explicitly and inherently called for in the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia. MISA Namibia, as a member of the „My Constitution My Decision Coalition‟, has called for the withdrawal of the bill and for extensive public consultations on the proposed amendments in 2015. The bill is not a democratically drafted document, but rather the product of processes that were shrouded in secrecy, right up to the tabling of the Bill in the National Assembly on 31 July 2014.
The lack of access to information that preceded the tabling of the bill go against the grain of democratic practice, because the proposed amendments have not been put to the public for their input, thus denying citizens their democratic right to express themselves on potentially far-reaching changes to the foundational framework of the Namibian State. A dangerous precedent is being set.
The launch of the My Constitution My Decision Campaign, by a coalition of civil society organisations, including MISA Namibia, almost immediately resulted in virulent attacks by members of the executive, most notably, by the main proponent of the Bill, Prime Minister Hage Geingob on various platforms. On his Facebook page he challenged civil society, asking from where it derives its mandate, labeling civil society “failed politicians”. He accused newspapers of transforming from “watchdogs to lapdogs”, concluding that the “masses are not fools and will never be whitemailed.”
MISA NAMIBIA’S POSITION
MISA Namibia is gravely concerned by the reaction of the Prime Minister to citizens democratically voicing their concerns and calling for consultation on the proposed amendments. It can only be construed as an attempt to intimidate the public, the media, and civil society into silence and acceptance. August 2014 undoubtedly is the darkest month of Namibia‟s 24-year democracy and lauded media freedom. Citizens should however remain steadfast in freely expressing themselves on the bill and demand that their right to access to information and democratic participation is upheld.
Civil society should continue fulfilling its mandate and ensure that Namibia‟s democracy is strengthened by a critically thinking and politically active citizenry.
The media should not be cowed into silence and assent. Namibia is standing at a significant crossroad; the nation now needs a vigilant informer, educator, watchdog and agenda setter, more than ever.
Information for editors
MISA Namibia is a member of a southern-Africa based regional network of media freedom and free expression organisations. MISA is a non-governmental organisation with members in 11 of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries. Officially launched in September 1992, MISA focuses primarily on the need to promote free, independent and pluralistic media, as envisaged in the 1991 Windhoek Declaration. MISA seeks ways in which to promote the free flow of information and co-operation between media workers, as a principal means of nurturing democracy and human rights in Africa.
Natasha Tibinyane, National Director MISA Namibia
Private Bag 13386, Windhoek, Namibia
Tel: + 264 61 232975
Fax: +264 61 248016