NATIONAL OVERVIEW N amibia continues to enjoy its status as the highest ranked country in sub-Saharan Africa on the 2017 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Globally, it has moved down from 17 to 24 out of 180 countries which may be attributed to the fact that Namibia still has no freedom of information law to guarantee citizens and the media access to public information. The Public Service Act of 1995, which is the current legislation in place, makes it difficult to access information held by the state, as it restricts public servants from disclosing public information that should in fact be available. Prior to coming into office President Hage Geingob always assured the sector of his commitment towards media freedom. In a speech at the investor’s conference in New York in September 2016 the president said, “As a former freedom fighter, press freedom is one of the things we fought for. Even when I was prime minister the first time, I used to assure one of the stalwart editors in Namibia that government would never compromise on the freedom of the press. Therefore, we will not rein in on the freedoms of the press.” These sentiments contradict the behaviour of certain members of the political leadership of the country who have berated the media in recent months, causing ripples on the surface of a seemingly smooth and conducive media environment. President Hage Geingob’s stance is more difficult to fathom. While he is seen as a 78 So This is Democracy? 2017 strong advocate of media freedom, he has on some occasions been critical of the media. Overall, the socio-political context remains conducive for free expression in general, and media freedom in particular. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION Unlike other countries on the African continent, Namibia once again had no incidents of assault, imprisonment, murder or threats in relation to freedom of expression in 2017. Media practitioners continued to have the freedom to investigate and report on public interest issues. Citizens were able to freely express themselves on issues that directly or indirectly affect them on social and mainstream media platforms. However, it would be remiss if mention was not made of political leaders inclination, and in particular President Hage Geingob’s consistent questioning of the media and civil society’s credibility and mandate. Back in 2016, an article published in The Namibian on 20 August quoted information minister Tjekero Tweya saying the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) will drive the agenda to create a statutory body “as a matter of urgency to ensure that the media is held responsible in the event that they abuse their power to report, write and broadcast, and make themselves guilty of defamation and slander of people’s character in public, and get away with murder. This tendency must come to an end.” According to The Namibian the minister had, on earlier occasions, explained that he was planning the establishment of a regulatory body tasked to “regulate and punish the media”.