By Amanda Xoagus – Windhoek, Namibia, Thursday, August 13, 2020.
Namibian journalists have hit back at the state owned news agency, Namibia Press Agency (Nampa) after the agency distanced itself from their political journalists, Edward Mumbuu who a fortnight ago agitated president Hage Geingob with questions on the Fishrot corruption scandal .
The Fishrot scandal is one of the biggest corruption cases in the country that saw former Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernard Easu and former Justice Minister Sacky Shangala being jailed last year.
Several other suspects related to the case are also jailed while the president’s personal lawyer, Sisa Namandje is also being investigated.
Mumbuu who attended the televised media briefing with regards to COVID-19 asked permission to pose questions that are not related to the virus that have killed 12 people in the country so far.
“Do I have permission?” Mumbuu asked during the televised media briefing, drawing the response: “I am listening,” from Geingob. Mumbuu asked Geingob whether it would not be wise for him to distance himself from his personal lawyer Sisa Namandje, through whose trust fund N$17.5 million in Fishrot funds had passed.
This did not sit well with the agency who distanced themselves from Mumbuu in a leaked WhatsApp message that circulated shortly after the press conference on social media.
Nampa news editor Maggy Thomas summoned Mumbuu immediately and informed the agency’s CEO, Linus Chata, that Mumbuu had been warned while an apology had been sent to state house.
Namibian journalists collectively issued a strongly worded statement against Nampa and media houses condemning the action of the agency.
The document signed by at least 200 journalists states that the leaked communique in which the agency’s management distanced itself from the journalist’s conduct confirms allegations that state-owned media continues to be controlled by politicians (elected officials) to advance their personal interests, thereby suppressing the mandate of these media outlets, which is to advance the voices of the voiceless.
“It is disappointing to witness the managers of state-owned media dancing to the tune of their masters’ sad song of betrayal of the Namibian people. As a collective unit we believe it is the prerogative of newsroom managers to stand up and protect staff members instead of leaving them exposed to intimidation and threats. They should be the challengers and critics of the government of the day in building the nation,” the Namibian journalists stated in their statement.
According to journalists this was just one of many incidents during which media bosses and the authorities have tried to suppress a journalist, this trend is growing in the industry and needs to be dealt with.
The media plays an important role in ensuring History is not repeated. We need to ask difficult questions to uphold the victory of our independence. We do this with pride, although in challenging circumstances, journalists said.
The journalists also added that as a nation we should never forget the havoc systemic and systematic corruption has caused in this country. Many corruption schemes would have continued unabatedly if not exposed by the media. The media answers to taxpayers, not politicians.
Meanwhile Nampa also in a statement said it has never barred any of its reporters from talking on or writing articles critical of the government or the agency itself.
In a statement released by Nampa Chief Executive Officer Linus Chata, the agency said it has never victimised, disciplined or fired any reporter for writing investigative articles that are hard-hitting and critical of the government or any public office-bearer.
Chata noted the agency would have wanted an article on the questions posed by Mumbuu on any other day. He added that it is important for writers’ thoughts to be synchronised with those of assigning editors in terms of diarised items and angles to articles.
“On that particular Friday, the news editor’s objection was with the conduct of the journalist in that the occasion was not deemed most appropriate to raise the said questions because that had a risk of diluting the president’s important message on COVID-19,” he said.
Chata said Nampa has an independent editorial policy and at no stage did State House or the government direct the agency on what or how to report