In Namibia and other democratic countries, newspaper, radio, TV and other media bear to heavy responsibility to keep the public informed. It is a vital function: the Namibian Constitution encourages people to participate actively in public life, but they can only do so if they know what is going on. Precisely because the media play such an important role in creating a healthy democracy, media freedom is a crucial right, and is guaranteed in the country’s constitution.
In playing this role, journalists are expected to behave professionally and with integrity. Through the Editors’ Forum of Namibian (EFN), the country’s media practitioners have now agreed on a Code of Ethics that is in line with international standards.
The code binds the media to observe the basic principles of good journalistic practice: accuracy, fairness, independence, protection of sources, consideration for the right to privacy and others.
The EFN has also created a mechanism to hear and decide on complaints against the media. The office of the Media Ombudsman has been set up, together with a Media Complaints Committee and Appeals Chairperson. This is a self-regulatory system: in line with international best practice, the Namibian media take accountability seriously.
People who use the complaints procedure cannot approach the courts afterwards. Experience has shown that a self- regulation system is more accessible, quicker and cheaper than the courts in dealing with complaints. As it involves editors being judged by their peers, it also has a particularly strong authority.
The office of Namibia’s Media Ombudsman is now open for business. The public is encouraged to make use of the complaints procedures to ensure that Namibia remains a stable democracy!