Speaker threatens to bar journalists from covering the National Assembly
Statement by the acting Secretary General of the Editors’ Forum of Namibia, Ronelle Rademeyer.
“The Editors’ Forum of Namibia (EFN) learnt with shock and dismay of the attack on the fourth estate and the threat by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon Peter Katjavivi, to bar parliamentary journalists from attending sessions.
“He issued a warning to journalists on Thursday, 20 September, describing their conduct as “unprofessional for zooming in to the mobile devices of MPs to view their private content”. This followed, among others, after media reported a Member of Parliament who was caught on camera browsing a dating site on a mobile device during a parliamentary session.
“We wish to remind the Speaker that Journalism has long been regarded as an important force in government and [is] vital to the functioning of a democracy. Edmund Burke almost two centuries ago said: “There are Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all”.
“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.
“Of course it would be unethical for journalists to read personal information on the devices of MPs. 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 smart phone. However, if a journalist would from the press gallery “yonder” recognise the look of a certain dating site on a device, it is within their right to inform citizens of such indiscretions.
“The Editors’ Forum of Namibia therefore condemns this attack on the media and encourages journalists to honour their duty while upholding the ethical code of conduct this forum adheres to.
“With the current economic conditions prevailing in the country, the forum expects its members to play their full part in helping turn the tide. If it is through being watchdogs of our elected MPs, 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 plays, 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.