The Namibia Media Professionals Union (NAMPU) has condemned the use of force by law enforcement officers against journalists reporting the recent police operation meant to stop a public protest at Chinatown in Windhoek.

Following the chaotic handling of a crowd that assembled at Chinatown on Friday morning by the police, NAMPU received reports that multiple journalists were attacked, shot at with rubber bullets and subsequently got injured in the course of their work.

“It is worth noting that the incident at Chinatown is not the first of its kind in which journalists are treated with brute force by the law enforcement officers,” said NAMPU’s secretary general Mr Sakeus Ikela.

“It is disturbing that when dispersing crowds, the police continue to group and treat journalists as ordinary protesters. In situations like the Chinatown incident, the law enforcement has the duty to ensure the safety of journalists covering protests and to guarantee the right of the public to seek and receive information about such social mobilisations.”

Ikela said that the use of “lethal or less-lethal force against journalists” is prohibited under international human rights law and contrary to best policing standards.

“Such action also limits the ability of the press to cover protests and further prevents the public from getting crucial information about such protests,” said the media unionist.

“We therefore condemn the use of force against journalists and plead with Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga to ensure the protection of journalists when covering protests.”

Ikela called on Police Inspector General Ndeitunga to institute an investigation into the shooting of Mr Elifas Bonifatius who sustained injuries while covering the Chinatown demonstration on Friday.

“We demand that a full report of such investigations be made public and that the perpetrators are brought to book.

“We also call on the police to dump a trigger-happy attitude when handling protests. It is the duty of the police to protect them instead of meting out violence and intimidatory tactics. Journalism should not be criminalised.”

In the photo: One of the traumatised reporters who had to dodge rubber bullets and run for her life as police used “less-lethal force” to disperse protesters at Chinatown.