By Victor Angula.
Last Friday, the 31st of July 2020, a journalist rubbed the president the wrong way.
The president was briefing the nation on the Covid-19 situation. Then it was time for the press to ask questions. One maverick young journalist working for a state-owned news agency asked the president to be given permission to ask a question which had nothing to do with Covid-19.
The president agreed. Then the journalist asked the president why he was not distancing himself from his personal lawyer who has been implicated in the biggest corruption scandal known as the “Fishrot”.
The president became angry. He responded by criticizing the journalist for talking about something that had nothing to do with the important issue which was for discussion (Covid-19). The president used some harsh words and rebuked the journalist for his conduct.
Then it was reported that when the journalist went back to his office he was called in by his supervisors, who were said to have asked him about his conduct. Apparently the president’s office had put pressure on the journalist’s superiors to reprimand, rebuke, or put the journalist in order.
The presidency came out saying it never put any pressure on the managers of the news agency to take action against the journalist.
But the media ombudsman came out speaking on the national radio saying that the incident was a “wake up call” for journalists to set up their union.
It’s unlikely though that the journalist will be fired. He might just be moved to do work which will not see him again going to cover events where the president will be present.
But the whole thing will go down as an incident where journalism stood up in Namibia to claim its position in society. The role of journalism is to ask questions which those in power do not want to answer.
And when this is taking place Namibia will fall off its pedestal as the top country in Africa when it comes to press freedom.
It’s not a cause for celebration if the country is number one in media freedom. When top government officials are not happy with the media, it means the media is doing a good job for society.
And the result is that the country will fall down in press freedom rankings.