Freedom of the press is firmly anchored in Namibia, historically one of Africa’s best-ranked countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index. The political and legislative environment is conducive to the free exercise of journalism.
The media landscape is diverse in Namibia. The population gets its news mainly from the national radio and TV broadcaster, the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), and the leading privately owned TV channel, One Africa TV. The independent daily The Namibian is the most widely read newspaper, ahead of the three newspapers owned by Namibia Media Holdings and the state-owned daily New Era. Licences are granted to media outlets considered less impartial, such as Desert Radio, owned by The Namibian, the most critical newspaper.
Journalists are free to work without interference from the authorities. In 2019, The Namibian and the international TV news channel Al Jazeera exposed corruption cases leading to the arrest of two government ministers and several businessmen and police officers. But in 2020, some media outlets were barred from the government’s press briefings on the pandemic and several freelance journalists complained that some of their social media posts had been removed. It was against this background that a Namibian journalists’ union was created in 2021, the first since independence. The government nonetheless maintains strict control over the appointment of the boards of directors of certain publications and, consequently, over their content.
Enshrined as a basic freedom in the constitution, freedom of the press is often defended by the judiciary when it comes under attack. In 2022, parliament passed a law on access to information that is supposed to facilitate investigative journalism. Provisions on the protection of sources are nonetheless incomplete. The media are governed by a self-regulatory Code of Ethics. The public can appeal to a media ombudsman when they feel unfairly treated by media content.
The economic environment is more favourable to state-owned media, although employees at the state-owned NBC went on strike demanding higher salaries and permanent positions in 2022. Advertising revenue is often channelled to pro-government media, a policy that undermines independent reporting. The print media are facing increasing financial difficulties and many have switched to a digital format.
Journalists are generally free to work in Namibia with little interference in their work. Political parties, especially during elections, often complain that adequate media coverage to their advantage is lacking, but there are no barriers to coverage of social issues. Media outlets are nonetheless sometimes attacked by ministers, or even by the president, who accuse them of being too negative in their reporting, which can sometimes lead to personal intimidation.
Verbal attacks against journalists are not uncommon, especially from members of the government, but they are rarely exposed to threats or dangers. Relations between the authorities and reporters are generally good. No cases of intimidation have been reported when journalists were covering strikes or protests.