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 has led to some self-censorship. A proposed freedom of information bill, on which work began in 1999, has yet to come into effect, despite efforts to revive it in recent years.
In recent years, the most serious media restrictions in Namibia have been isolated incidents reflecting the government’s sensitivity to criticism. A government ban on advertisements in the independent daily The Namibian, in place since March 2001, persists to date. In 2006, Sam Nujoma—former president and head of the ruling South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO)—initiated a N$5 million (US$650,000) defamation suit against The Namibian after an August 2005 story implicated Nujoma in a corruption scandal. In February 2007, a parliamentary debate saw a number of SWAPO members call segments of the independent media “unpatriotic” and “disrespectful” toward SWAPO leaders, including Nujoma. A November resolution of the SWAPO Congress calling for the establishment of a media council under government control drew condemnation from local press freedom groups.
Eight newspapers, six of which are privately owned, publish either daily or weekly in a variety of languages, including English, German, Afrikaans, and Oshiwambo. There are at least 11 private radio stations, 2 community radio stations, and 2 private television stations that broadcast in English and German, and a pay satellite television service broadcasts CNN, the BBC, and a range of South African and international news and entertainment programs. Still, the state-run Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC)—including one television station and nine radio stations—dominates broadcast media. 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 media enjoy complete freedom to criticize the government, others believe that they are biased in favor of the ruling party. In 2007, an NBC plan to change the format of popular call-in shows from open to predetermined topics was torpedoed after public outcry. There are no government restrictions on the internet, but usage is limited to 0.2 percent of the population owing to financial and infrastructural constraints.