NAMIBIA INTRODUCTION Sadly, we have to issue yet another annual transparency report lamenting the lack of an access to information (ATI) law in Namibia. Each year, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) issues promise after promise that a bill will be tabled, but it never happens. It has now become difficult to believe government’s public commitment to legislating the right of access to information, because it persistently fails to do so. The ministry’s failure to table a bill is further intensified by the fact that ministry officials are unable to provide a plausible reason for their inability to do so. It is important to note that government and civil society have been partners in this journey towards greater transparency since the launch of the ACTION Campaign in July 2012. Aimed at raising awareness on ATI as an enabling human right, and lobbying for a legislative and policy environment that fosters ATI, the campaign was successful in fostering a partnership between government, civil society, the media and development partners. In as much as this is an annual assessment of how citizens experience accessing information from public institutions, it also serves as civil society’s reflection on the ATI environment. Since 2013, the Transparency Assessment has been an overview of all the work that has been done towards achieving the goals set by the ACTION Campaign. Thanks to the commendable work by the African Platform on ATI (APAI), the goal to have 28 September recognised as International Day for Universal Access to Information by the international community was achieved in 2015. Namibia is one of the few countries that officially commemorates this day. A major objective, which was for more Namibians to be aware of their human right of access to information and how it can enable them to access other human rights, was also achieved. Further, with the support of development partners, government has made good strides in capacitating public institutions’ understanding and performance with regard to their respect of the public’s right to know. As development partners, UNESCO Namibia and fesmedia Africa have been instrumental in this journey, and for that we are thankful. However, it is time to achieve the ultimate goal, which is an access to information law, now – no more excuses. Greater pressure must be placed on government for the tabling of an access to information law. The disappointment that comes with writing yet another report that does not celebrate the passing of an ATI law is assuaged by the fact that we can once again report an improvement in public institutions’ performance with regard to their accessibility and responsiveness to the public’s demand for information. We re-assessed the best and worst performers of last year. The Ministry of Justice improved its performance, while the Communications Regulatory Association of Namibia (CRAN) scored a lot lower this year. This highlights the fact that 60 a citizen’s experience with a public institution can differ, depending on various factors, and that an institution can improve its performance once it is held accountable. It is important that public institutions do not lower their standards or quality of work once a good precedent has been set. It is an undeniable fact that the lack of access to information is an impediment to media freedom. This was highlighted when the weekly The Patriot newspaper had to defend an urgent court action by the Namibian Central Intelligence Service (NCIS) in April, to prevent them from publishing an article on corruption at the institution. The High Court dismissed the bid with costs, arguing that the NCIS was established to serve the state and thus remains accountable to the judiciary. However, the NCIS thereafter lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court, arguing that the High Court erred when it found that government was trying to get an interdict that would have prevented The Patriot from publishing allegations about corrupt activities. They also argued that the High Court did not take into account the purpose of the 1982 Protection of Information Act and the Namibia Central Intelligence Service Act of 1997. Government’s legal team argued that the presiding judge, Harald Geier, did not make a judicial interpretation of the provisions of these laws, on which government relied in their bid to prevent the publication of the article. The case was still sub-judice at the time of going to press. It does not happen often but, as with this court case, government relies on outdated laws that do not adhere to the free expression principles espoused by our Constitution. Hence our consistent calls for the repeal of these and other laws that do not serve the best interest of the Namibian people and their right to free expression, access to information and media freedom. Presidential and National Assembly elections will be held next year, during which tensions will be heightened and, as with previous years, we can expect an increase in attempts to censor or threaten media freedom. Another law that may be more explicitly applied during this time is the Namibian Broadcasting Act (No. 9 of 1991), which grants the information minister wide discretion and powers to interfere with the broadcaster’s independence. The NBC is already censored in regard to how they provide news and information. During election periods, it becomes a clear proponent of the ruling party through the way it provides coverage. NBC has an equal free airtime policy for all participating political parties, however, a lot of the election coverage happens outside of these allocated slots and this is when the discrepancy becomes glaringly obvious. Citizens deserve unbiased information about all participating parties, in addition to analyses provided by experts from various stakeholder and interest groups. Just as important, the citizen’s voice should be at the forefront of the discourse. Information and communication technology (ICT) continue to enhance the public’s access to information. Thanks to the establishment of the Internet Society of Namibia Chapter, Namibian youth now have a platform where they can articulate their views and realise their dream internet.