The Namibian government's threats against the medi are deeply worrying, says the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) in a media release. There is nothing wrong with a media council, but it can't be government-controlled.

The Misa statement reads:

The local newspaper daily, the Namibian of 19 February 2008, reported that SWAPO Vice President Hage Geingob  this weekend warned journalists to report "the truth and nothing but the truth", or face action from Government.

In the report, Geingob said: "I am telling [Windhoek Observer editor Hannes] Smith and others, you have written and written too much all this nonsense against the Government and the truth, but the Government has stood firm about you, not arresting or touching you. Despite that some reporters have written many things against the Government, has put them in opposition with the Government, no single one of those Namibian journalists have been arrested or prevented to write”.

In light of this, MISA Namibia has once again reiterated the importance of Government to encourage the creation of a self regulatory mechanism for the Namibian media without its interference. The organisation also calls for government to put in place a mechanism that will enhance professionalism.

Chairperson of MISA Namibia, Christof Maletsky notes that MISA Namibia has no problem with the establishment of a media council, but rather with a government backed media council.

The role of a media council will be to assist in ensuring that, editors, journalists, directors, producers, broadcasters and others involved in the Media adhere to the highest professional standards by strict compliance with the code of conduct in force from time to time.

In a media council will also keep under review developments likely to restrict the supply of information of public interest and importance and to investigate the conduct and attitude of persons, corporations of governmental bodies at all levels towards the Media and to report publically thereon.

Meanwhile, MISA Namibia National Director, Mathew Haikali also stressed that the establishment of a government back media council is contravention of the following documents:

 The Declaration of principles on freedom of expression in Africa by the African Commission on Human and People's Rights which stipulates that any regulatory body established to hear complaints about media content, including media councils, shall be protected against political, economic or any other undue interference.

Said Haikali: “Other documents which do not allow for the establishment of a government media council  include the Draft Information Policy, the Windhoek Declaration on Promoting a Free and Independent Pluralistic African Press, the SADC Protocol on Culture, Information and Sport, the African Charter on broadcasting with specific reference to public service broadcasters, the Windhoek Declaration and Namibia’s Constitution which makes provision for freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media”.

In addition the National Director stresses that MISA Namibia has been at the forefront, together with various stakeholders, in the formulation of a media mediator or media council. “This is a process that will not happen over night, and therefore there is a need for continues engagement with various stakeholders”, he said.