Deputy Minister of Information and Communication Technology Engel Nawatiseb has revealed that Namibia’s legislation that will deal with access to information has been signed off and is currently with legal drafters to ensure provisions to be enshrined in the legislation. The Access to Information Bill was signed off last week – September 9.
Nawatiseb made the remarks when the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information Commissioner, Lawrence Mute paid a courtesy call to President Hage Geingob yesterday at State House.
Geingob said freedom of expression is a fundamental right. “We fought for it, and so we should treasure it.” He therefore said freedom of the press and free flow of information is guaranteed in Namibia. Geingob said he has been transparent with the media in his official engagements since taking office in 2015.
Namibia reclaimed its position as the country with the freest press in Africa earlier this year. They had lost the top position to Ghana last year, but the latest 2019 World Press Freedom Index has restored the country’s grandeur times.
Namibia is ranked 23 out of a global ranking of 180 countries.
Ghana took the lead, as it already enacted its Access to Information Bill into law early this year.
The African Commission is tasked with promoting and protecting human rights by interpreting the African Charter and considering individual complaints.
Nawatiseb said the Bill will be tabled before Parliament and the relevant parliamentary standing committee will consult stakeholders for input.
In its quest to ensure that people have access to information in order for them to make informed decisions, the ministry of information during the 2016 financial year drafted bills on access to information, social media use policy and a communication plan, as well as reviewed issues around national information as per the Harambee Prosperity Plan’s pillar of Effective Governance and Service Delivery.
“Part 5 of sub-section 37 of the Access to Information Bill is making specific reference to the protection of interests of people with different abilities in their quest for information. We should be proactive to provide information. We hope that the processes and systems are exhausted,” Nawatiseb noted.
Geingob said Africa as a whole has made tremendous progress in terms of access to information.
Namibia has been recognised as one of the best countries for providing press freedom to its practitioners.
Nawatiseb attributed this to the safe and conducive working environment media practitioners operate without any intimidation.
“We are on record that since independence, no single journalist has been harassed, arrested and put in jail by our government. The President ensures that at all engagements involving government, the media is invited to seek clarity,” he said.
Nawatiseb also confirmed that Namibia is utilising the African model law as a guiding tool that the country meets its commitment to the African Union and United Nations conventions to ensure access to information.
Mute said the commission do offer technical assistance where they can look at the Bill and advice Namibia on how to ensure it is responsive to the best standards on the continent and the world.
He applauded Namibia for being an active member in the work of the commission.
He is hopeful that Namibia will invite the commission to host one of its ordinary sessions here.
* Published in New Era newspaper (Albertina Nakale)