The Presidency has apologised to local journalists after media workers were yesterday barred from covering the official inauguration of the Covid-19 isolation facility at the Windhoek Central Hospital.
Only the NBC production team was allowed to beam the event live on its television channel.
President Hage Geingob officiated at the event.
Two journalists, Charmaine Ngatjiheue and Jemima Beukes were also manhandled and escorted out of the venue by police officers attached to the VIP Protection Directorate.
“The action taken to restrict media was to comply with social distancing regulations as a means to combat the spread of Covid-19,” The Presidency said in a statement. “The incident happened as result of miscommunication between the Presidency Media Team and the Ministry of Health and Social Services and is highly regrettable. The RSVP list was a precautionary measure in light of the health regulations under the state of emergency and subsequent actions of the security officials were not of ill intent or deliberate, but simply enforcing compliance to regulations. We would like to reassure the media that the Presidency values the important role of the media in a healthy democracy and will continue to ensure media freedom as guaranteed in the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia. The Presidency media team extends its most sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused by this incident.”
Meanwhile, the Namibia Media Trust yesterday issued a media statement voicing its disapproval on the manhandling of the two journalists.
The trust opposed the use of Covid-19 regulations to infringe on the rights of journalists to access information.
“It should be noted that the right to media freedom as enshrined in the Constitution cannot be suspended or diminished by a state of emergency,” read the statement.
It further denounces any attempt to inflict bodily harm on reporters in the course of their work.
The statement indicated that after the confrontation between the journalists and State House security personnel, a police officer allegedly shouted at journalists, “what if you got shot”.
The media trust said this is unacceptable, more specifically since these reporters were women who posed no threat to the security staff.
“We condemn this in the strongest terms and call upon State House and government to liaise with media on a mutually beneficial arrangement that would prevent such distasteful occurrences and enable media to do their jobs going forward.”