The Editors’ Forum of Namibia (EFN) released a statement on 16 May 2022 in response to the incident last Friday where a journalist was injured by police rubber bullets at Chinatown in Windhoek.
When Omutumwa asked EFN to clarify their statement, Chairperson of EFN Mr Frank Steffen responded today (Wednesday) as follows:
Omutumwa: Most political parties released statements during the weekend condemning police brutality against peaceful protesters during an incident at Chinatown last Friday.
But EFN released a statement only on Monday, yet EFN’s chairperson until today (Tuesday) is not available for inquiries concerning the statement he released. So why is the EFN not showing seriousness where issues of journalists are concerned?
Steffen: The EFN is not a political party that follows any fixed mandate. It can therefore only respond after all member editors agree with the content of the response. That is a process that we cannot disregard because the EFN is not structured along political party lines as pointed out, and would not want to respond to a situation without the full input of all members.
Omutumwa: In the statement by EFN, it seems to indicate that EFN is putting the blame on journalists for being reckless or having been targeted by police rubber bullets because the journalists were unidentifiable, or they stood amidst the protesters. Why is EFN coming across in that manner?
Steffen: The EFN certainly has no wish to see a repetition of this type of violent incident – God forbid should we lose a colleague in that manner!
The EFN comprises people who feel responsible for the safety of their employees. It is against this background that the EFN felt the urgent need to, on the one hand, remind police that the EFN does not appreciate their brutal approach to this type of public outcry.
On the other hand, we felt it was important to remind ourselves and our colleagues to do everything possible and reasonable to not be caught up between the two fronts of incidents such as these.
There is no time to first plan and conduct workshops for this kind of awareness, while the explosive situation has not been entirely resolved. We needed to get the message across immediately.
Our media houses need to act now and make sure that media is clearly discernible from the protestors.
Omutumwa: The statement by the EFN chairperson seems to be a media release (expecting journalists to write news articles out of it) yet it is presented as if it’s a memo sent to media houses, with pointers on how journalists can in future not fall victim to police action at protests. Can you explain whether the statement dated 16 May 2022 was a memo or a press statement?
Steffen: As explained above, the EFN is not a political party and will not become part of such agendas. Nobody can put pressure on the EFN to respond or bring out a statement. We did this because we understood that this needed to be done, meaning there was a need to:
(a) respond to the violence displayed by the police, and
(b) point out to our colleagues of the media that they should do everything in their power to remain safe.
It is a personal choice to call this a memo or a press release. In this case substance needs to supersede form: The EFN calls it “sharing of relevant information and a call to action”.
In the photo: EFN’s Mr Frank Steffen.