There was lively discussion when the ACTION Coalition Namibia in conjunction with the Namibia Media Trust (NMT) recently launched their Access to Information (ATI) and Elections Briefing Paper at a local hotel at a ‘breakfast Conversations’ event.
The paper explores universal trends of electoral processes and aims to provide access to election related information ahead of the Namibian general elections in November this year.
A panel discussion comprising of the director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Graham Hopwood. The ECN Program Officer, Jesse Munashimwe, the director of Citizens for an Accountable and Transparent Society (CATS) Carola Engelbrecht, the Editor of The Namibian, Tangeni Amupadhi as well as the University of Namibia (UNAM) Law Lecturer and author of the paper ATI and Elections, John Nakuta, drew attention to issues related to voter education, citizens’ access to voter information and credibility of electronic voting machines.
In her welcoming, the Executive Chairperson of the NMT Gwen Lister, noted that the right to ATI is very crucial in the lives of all citizens, and that access to information allows for transparency and a culture of openness.
The author of the paper, John Nakuta, scrutinised the Electoral Commission of Namibia’s (ECN’s) role when it comes to voter education, and whether they were doing enough to inform citizens to exercise their right to vote. “Proactive disclosure and openness are very important aspects of Access to Information, and that cannot be avoided in Electoral processes,” Nakuta said.
He noted that while ECN has a mandate to educate voters, other stakeholders should also participate in educating the public on elections because citizen education on electoral process is not only the responsibility of the ECN.
“We should make voting something special and people should understand why they should vote,” said Engelbrecht while adding that Access to information must also be ‘wanted’ by the public and that citizens should make themselves available to platforms such as this to receive information.
* BY JESSICA UIRAS. Jessica is a third year student in Communications at the University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Windhoek, Namibia. She is presently interning at the NMT.