From 16 to 20 September 2019, Commissioner Lawrence Mute undertook an advocacy visit to the Republic of Namibia, in his capacity as the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (Special Rapporteur), a special mechanism of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission).
The Special Rapporteur was accompanied during this visit by a delegation consisting of Dr. Ololade Shyllon, a human rights lawyer and expert on access to information, Ms. Eva Heza, a legal officer from the African Commission’s Secretariat, and Ms. Winfred Mbae,
assistant and researcher.
The purpose of the advocacy visit was to promote the full exercise of Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which enshrines the rights to freedom of expression and access to information. The visit, in particular, sought to provide technical support towards enactment of access to information legislation; and to encourage the use of access to information protocols during the forthcoming elections in Namibia.
During his visit, the Special Rapporteur and his delegation was granted audience with His Excellency Hage Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia. Additionally, the Special Rapporteur held consultations with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information, Communications and Technology and Innovation, the Chairperson of the Law Reform and Development Commission, the Ombudsman, the Chief Executive Officer of the Electoral Commission of Namibia, the Media Ombudsman and representatives from the Editors’ Forum of Namibia. He also held consultations with representatives from civil society organizations and the media. Additionally, the Special Rapporteur gave a guest lecture at the Law Department of the University of Namibia, attended the launch of a report on ‘fake news’ and Elections in Namibia, and participated in radio and television events to raise awareness on Article 9 issues.
As part of his advocacy visit, the Special Rapporteur participated in a Consultation on the draft revised Declaration on Principles of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa involving participants from six countries in Southern Africa.
This process is being undertaken pursuant to African Commission Resolutions which cumulatively call on the Special Rapporteur to revise and expand the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa which was adopted by the African Commission in 2002.
The Special Rapporteur welcomes the continuing commitment by the Government of Namibia to enact an access to information legislation. This commitment was reaffirmed both by the President and the Parliamentary standing Committee. The Special Rapporteur also takes note of the keenness by civil society to ensure that Namibia enacts a law that complies fully with international standards on access to information, including those established in the African Commission’s Model Law on Access to Information for Africa.
The Special Rapporteur calls on the Government to publish or make public the Access to Information Bill at the earliest to enable Namibians to provide feedback on its contents.
He indeed also looks forward to providing technical advice on the Bill’s contents.
The Special Rapporteur also encourages the Electoral Commission of Namibia and other electoral stakeholders, including the media, political parties and civil society, to proactively provide relevant information to Namibia’s electorate prior to, during and after the polls which are taking place later this year. The African Commission’s Guidelines on Elections and Access to Information have invaluable protocols for guiding electoral stakeholders in this regard.
The Special Rapporteur thanks the Namibia Media Trust in collaboration with ACTION Namibia Coalition for hosting the visit. He also thanks the Government and people of Namibia for the warm welcome accorded to him and his delegation during the advocacy visit.
Done in Windhoek, Namibia, 20 September 2019