It is unfortunate that we have to release yet another assessment
of Namibia’s access to information environment, without the
country actually having a law that legislates the public’s right
to access to information. Government on several occasions has
indicated its intention to have this law passed by 28 September
2017, but sadly this does not seem to be the case.
It is highly questionable as to why this was not achieved,
considering the amount of advocacy work done in 2016 by
the media and civil society, in partnership with the Ministry of
Information and Communication Technology (MICT).
The first draft of an Access to Information (ATI) Bill was developed
during a consultation meeting. In addition to that, civil servants,
civil society and media representatives revised the National
Information Policy. Most recommendations related to updating
Government’s methods of sharing and receiving information in
the age of the Internet and social media. The revised National
Information Policy was adopted this year, and quite rightly,
received very little criticism from the media, civil society and the
public at large. We also set the foundation for a Communications
Strategy for Government during this consultation, which, as far as
we know, has not yet been adopted. It is important to note that
the consultation was initiated by the MICT, for which they must
be commended.
However, it is now more than a year later, and we are anxiously
waiting for the ATI Bill to be tabled in Parliament. After the Bill’s
first tabling, it will go through a public consultation process. It is
our hope that this will be broad-based and take place across the
country. Historically, Namibians are not very engaged in the public
consultation process. This can be ascribed to the fact that there
is not sufficient public notification of when and where it will take
place. The level of the public’s engagement is dependent on how
much awareness is raised on the issue through the media, and
whether civil society has capacitated the public to understand
the issue at hand. In this case, can we as media and civil society
organisations confidently state that we have done our best in
ensuring that citizens understand what access to information
entails, as well as how its lack negatively affects the realisation of
basic human rights?
We are also awaiting the repeal of several secrecy laws. These
include the Protection of Information Act (1982), the Defence Act
(2002), the National Security Act (1997) and the Public Service
Act (1997). These laws limit citizens’ ability to access information,
as well as making the disclosure of public information without
the permission of the Permanent Secretary a disciplinary
offence. Additionally, the Communications Act (2009) permits
the interception of e-mail, text messages, Internet banking
transactions, and telephone calls without a warrant. This law
threatens the media’s independence and ability to conduct
effective investigative journalism. Civil society and the media
need to renew their efforts in calling for the repeal of these
aforementioned laws and/or their problematic clauses.
Namibia also needs to ratify and domesticate the African
Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the
African Statistics Charter. These instruments promote access to


information, accountability and transparency.
The Electronic Transactions and Communications Bill has been
on the shelves for a number of years. When first tabled, the Bill
received considerable resistance from civil society because, if
passed, it would have resulted in Government legally violating
citizens’ right to privacy. The law gave Government the right
to conduct search and seizure operations of databases and
computers, intercept data and communications, and remotely
monitor them for a period of up to three months. It also obliged
telecommunications service providers, or any other entity
that may have information relating to a matter of interest to
Government, to cooperate and provide all relevant data. The Bill
was referred back to the line ministry and we hope that legal
drafters have in the meantime found a way to navigate between
legislating surveillance and the seizure of personal data in the
interest of national security, and constitutional provisions relating
to freedom of expression and the right to privacy.
A major concern in regard to access to information, particularly
for the media, is aNovember 2016 Cabinet Resolution directing
all government departments to prioritise the dissemination of
information and advertisement through the state-owned New Era
Publication Corporation and Namibia Broadcasting Corporation
(NBC). The resolution negatively affects the public’s right to
information, as not all citizens regularly access state-owned
media, andbecause a reduction in advertising revenue will result
in a decline of independent media’s financial sustainability.
However, this year saw the passing of the Witness Protection
Act and the Whistleblower Protection Bill. Government has
to be commended for removing problematic clauses from
the Whistleblower Protection Bill after intense lobbying by
civil society. It is in such instances that one is reminded of the
importance of a vibrant and responsive civil society, as well as
a free and independent media for a thriving democracy. It is
our hope that these sectors will remain committed and able to
uphold their mandate, and that Government remains open and
responsive to broad-based consultation.

Rationale and ReseaRch
This year’s study focused on four government ministries and
four government departments. The study’s aim was to assess
their accessibility and responsiveness to the public’s demand for
information. Research was conducted from July to September
2017. The study indicates how transparent each public institution
is by applying prescribed tools that measure the level of
responsiveness of each chosen institution within a specific period
of time. The study’s results will inform MISA’s work in regard to
the promotion and protection of freedom of expression, which
cannot be realised without access to information.
The following public institutions were surveyed:
1. Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare (MPESW)
2. Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET)
3. Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development

Select target paragraph3