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.
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.
Enshrined as a basic freedom in the constitution, press freedom is often defended by the judiciary when it comes under attack. The Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that the government could not use national security as a pretext for preventing the courts from deciding whether the media could reveal certain information. However, the legal framework could be improved by a law on access to information, which has been promised for a long time. Provisions on the protection of sources are also incomplete.
The economic environment is more favourable to state-owned media, with advertising 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.
Verbal attacks against journalists are not uncommon, especially from members of the government, and several reporters were also briefly arrested in 2020.