1 October 1997


Journalists association calls for meeting with Speaker of Parliament to discuss legislation which could force individuals to reveal sources of information

Incident details


(MISA/IFEX) - MISA member the Journalists Association of Namibia
(JAN) has written to the Speaker of Parliament, Dr Mose
Tjitendero, requesting an urgent meeting to discuss legislation
which can be used to force anyone - media workers included - to
reveal their sources of information. In particular, JAN wishes to
discuss with the Speaker and members of Parliament's Committee of
Privileges an apparent misunderstanding surrounding the existence
of a parliamentary motion which looks to give all Standing and
Select Committees of Parliament the power to subpoena and force
people to reveal the source of information in their possession.

**Updates IFEX alert dated 24 September 1997; for further
background, see also IFEX press release/action dated 22 September

In its letter to the Speaker, JAN requests an urgent meeting with
him and members of the Committee of Privileges (which the Speaker
chairs) in a bid to clarify "this apparent confusion" about the
existence - or not - of the Parliamentary motion; asks to discuss
JAN's concerns about existing sections of the Powers, Privileges
and Immunities of Parliament Act, "which we feel infringe upon
constitutional guarantees of media freedom and free expression,
and threaten to hinder the flow of information between Government
and the public"; and expresses the hope that such a meeting could
look at ways of initiating a dialogue between journalists and
parliamentarians "in a bid to foster a better understanding of
each other's work".

The letter also notes that the Speaker, Prime Minister Hage
Geingob, and Information Minister Ben Amathila had all reaffirmed
their commitment, and the commitment of the government, to media
freedom and free expression in recent years. In this regard, JAN
says: "It seems we are all speaking the same language, and we
should look forward to a healthy and constructive dialogue".

Background Information

At a press conference called by the Speaker on 8 September 1997,
a member of the Speaker's staff gave journalists an agenda
outlining issues to be brought before the current session of
Parliament. Item 6 of this agenda detailed a motion which would
"authorize Standing and Select Committee(s) to, with the consent
of the Speaker, subpoena any person to appear before such
Committee(s) in terms of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of
Parliament Act". Section 14 (1) of the Powers Privileges and
Immunities of Parliament Act already allows the Committee of
Privileges to "subpoena any person to attend before it to give
evidence or to produce any document or thing in the possession or
custody or under the control of that person". Section 14 (2) of
the same act states that "the powers conferred by subsection (1)
may be exercised by any committee other than the Committee of
Privileges if such a committee is authorized by a resolution of
the House to exercise those powers in respect of any matter or
question specified in that resolution".
It appears that the motion mentioned in the Parliamentary agenda
given to journalists on 8 September was to be tabled in
accordance with Section 14 (2) of the act. The existence of the
motion and the nature of its contents were subsequently confirmed
by Clerk of Parliament Findley Harker in an interview with "The
Namibian" newspaper, details of which were published on 18
September (see IFEX alert and press release/action).


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