PR practitioners issue open letter condemning state violence against Namibian journalists
By Liz Tashiya, Chairperson: PRISA Namibia.
The Executives of the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA) Namibia Chapter are shocked to learn of the senseless act of violence against Journalists Charmaine Ngatjiheue and Jemima Beukes from The Namibian and Namibian Sun respectively.
On Wednesday, 03 June 2020 the journalists were manhandled by State House security personnel. The media, apart from state-owned Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) staff was barred from access to the COVID-19 isolation Facility at Windhoek Central Hospital during the inauguration by H.E. Dr Hage Geingob. State House alleges that actions taken to restrict media was to comply with social distancing regulations to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Founded in 1957, PRISA represents professionals in public relations and communication management in Southern Africa. PRISA was founded on the premise that a free flow of information must be unbiased, build trust with the public, manage collective reputation, and enhance the PR profession. We use discursive strategies to promote the voices of marginalized people, create a proactive change in response to gender violence (GV) to transform society by promoting equality and fairness. Thus, through our code of ethics we encourage ethical conduct, business honesty, integrity, and best practices.
PRISA Namibia applauds State House decision to uphold the safety and numbers of all guests and journalists through COVID-19 regulations. Although our focus is strengthening regional cooperation, we cannot turn a blind eye to our regime’s unfair treatment of journalists or to violence and injustice endured by our people. The recent attack is an unacceptable affront to all humanity. It dramatically impedes the president’s recent press briefings that assured for adequate protection by law enforcement authorities, maintaining human dignity and respect, and acting compassionately towards others.
The State House apology by H.E. Dr Hage Geingob was vague and left plenty room for equivocation and misinterpretation. Also, it has failed to call out the security personnel by name. Instead the President blamed the altercation on COVID-19 regulations.
It is in this vein, that PRISA Namibia condemns in the strongest possible terms the appalling display of intolerance and violence on journalists. That hateful act, and the many others like it have again exposed the intolerance that has plagued this country for generations. Our hearts go out to the journalists and various media houses on whom so much anguish has already been inflicted. We express our solidarity with members of the media and resolve in the fight against violence in all its forms, wherever and whenever it occurs.
Furthermore, PRISA Namibia applauds the Namibia Media Trust (NMT), PRISA members and members of the public who publicly denounced the maltreatment of the journalists. We recognize the anger, and despair that many of you may be feeling. Please know that we stand by you and support you. At the same time, we can use that rightful anger for change and raise our voice against the injustice suffered by our people.
We must act in our daily lives to protect the vulnerable and stand up for the persecuted, just as we do in our daily work at PRISA. We call upon members of the public to hold government accountable, adopt the principle that legislation provides of persons who instigate or commit crimes against journalists and media professionals while discharging important journalistic duties, must be judged before Namibian courts.
PRISA CEO Mr Victor Sibeko based at the Head Office in Johannesburg, South Africa issued a statement this afternoon in which he commends PRISA Namibia for its commitment in ethical practices.
The statement reads as follows: “We seek to support our fellow professionals as we serve the public good. This means we have taken on a special obligation to operate ethically. The value of fellow professionals’ reputation depends upon the ethical conduct of everyone we come to contact with and who is affiliated to our practice. This type of treatment should not happen to anyone. It does not set a good example. As such we expect our fellow colleagues to be treated with respect, like professionals by PRISA’s pursuit of excellence with exemplary standards of not interfering with their jobs, professionalism and ethically so. We believe ethical practice is the most important obligation of PRISA members and we will strive at all times to enhance and protect the dignity of the profession.”
Sadly, our own small actions will not immediately end injustice. However, we believe that every Namibian has his or her own part to play. We remain optimistic that as a nation we can and will do better. Please know that PRISA Namibia is not and will not be silent in the face of injustice. We trust you will all join us in fighting the evils of social injustice and most importantly taking personal action. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Each of us can help to improve our country and ensure that all forms of inequity are more effectively addressed.
In closing, we are grateful to each of you for reaching out to us with your ideas and your suggestions. PRISA Namibia aims to encourage a continued conversation backed by meaningful action. We issue this open letter today as a statement of common values. One of our most important steps going forward is to open additional channels for dialogue so that we might continue to listen, and to take pragmatic action, toward our commonly held and ideal objectives.