Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Namibia’s press is generally considered to be one of the freest on the continent. The constitution guarantees freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respects these rights in practice. Independent media routinely criticize the government, though government pressure and sensitivity to negative coverage have led to some self-censorship. The Freedom of Information Act, introduced in 1999 as a fundamental component of the government’s anticorruption initiative, was put into effect only in 2005.
In recent years, the most serious media restrictions in Namibia have been isolated incidents in which the government has canceled advertisements in a few newspapers for their supposedly critical coverage. In February, the Media Institute of Southern Africa reported that a government ban on the English-language independent daily The Namibian—in place since March 2001—persists to date. In September, Sam Nujoma former president and head of the ruling South-West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) initiated a N$5 million (approximately US$650,000) defamation suit against The Namibian because of an August 2005 story implicating Nujoma in a corruption scandal. In addition, some restrictions have been sought in media coverage of the mass trials of accused secessionists from the Caprivi region. In May, John Liebenberg, a South African photographer, was arrested for attempting to photograph actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who were in the country for the birth of their child. In December, the youth league of the ruling SWAPO party called for restrictions on “cancerous, racist, and parasitic media operators” after some newspapers reported critically on former president Sam Nujoma’s role in a 1989 battle with South African forces.
Eight newspapers are in circulation, 6 of which are privately owned. There are at least 11 private radio stations and 2 private television stations that broadcast in English and German. A subscription satellite television service broadcasts CNN, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and a range of South African and international news and entertainment programs. Private radio stations and newspapers usually operate without official interference, but reporters for state-run media have been subjected to indirect and direct pressure to avoid reporting on controversial topics. While many journalists insist that the state-run Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) enjoys complete freedom to criticize the government, others believe that it is biased toward the ruling party. In February, the government attempted to allow only photographers from the NBC to cover the opening of parliament; after vocal protests from nonstate media and press freedom organizations, the government granted access to a wide range of media organizations. There are no government restrictions on the internet, and several print publications have popular websites, but access to this new medium is limited to less than 4 percent of the population owing to financial and infrastructure constraints.