The media should understand that its freedom, while guaranteed in the Namibian constitution, must be subordinated to the national interest and the policies of a democratically elected government.

New Era writes in an editorial:

The freedom of the media as enshrined in the Namibian constitution must, of necessity, be subordinated to the overriding interest of the country, and the primary purpose and development goals of the democratically elected government.

However, as earlier indicated, all too often in developing countries, the media have arrogated to themselves the role of invigilator, adversary and inquisitor of the government. Many editors and journalists in developing countries are uncritically imitative of sensational reporting and the profit-driven styles adopted by those in developed countries. The foreign owned and white controlled media in many developing countries especially Africa, often see themselves as protector and guarantors of fundamental freedoms and liberties against the presumed inclination of African governments towards dictatorship and corruption.

This mindset, clearly borders either on subliminal racism, paternalism or both. If we want to develop and grow our economies, the media in developing countries cannot afford to simply imitate the fads and fetishes of developed countries. The importance of education, the need for political and social stability, the inculcation of work ethics and discipline, the acquisition of skills and expertise and the ability to adapt scientific knowledge to fit conditions in developing countries, are some of the vital factors for progress that the media in Namibia should be actively and constructively promoting. The media have an important role to play in helping achieve these noble goals.

It is, therefore, important to note that while there is freedom of the media in Namibia, this goes with responsibilities as provided for in Article 21 (2) of the constitution, which stipulates that there would be reasonable restrictions on freedom in so far as it is required in the interests of the sovereignty and national integrity of Namibia, national security, public order, decency and morality, etc.

It is critically important for editors and journalists in developing countries including Namibia, to recognize that the political culture and levels of economic developments in many developing countries differ from that in developed countries.

* This editorial appeared in New Era.