24 October 1997


Resolution compelling individuals to reveal sources of information to be tabled in Parliament; Speaker of National Assembly states that journalists' rights will be protected

Incident details

legal action

(MISA/IFEX) - Speaker of the National Assembly Mose Tjitendero is
to go ahead and table a resolution in Parliament that will
broaden existing powers to enable parliamentary committees to
subpoena people and force them to reveal sources of information.
However, Tjitendero has also recognised the right of journalists
to protect sources, and says this right is protected by the
Namibian Constitution. Tjitendero spoke on 13 October 1997 during
a meeting called by the Journalists Association of Namibia (JAN).

**Updates IFEX alerts dated 1 October and 24 September 1997**

JAN had sought clarification on the ramifications of issuing of
subpoenas under the Powers, Privileges and Immunities Act.
Tjitendero says the decision to subpoena persons to appear before
any parliamentary committee would not infringe on the persons'
constitutional rights. He says the decision is rather
"administrative". Both the Speaker and legal opinion said that
the right of journalists to protect sources would be protected
under the Constitution, which guarantees media freedom.

Tjitendero told the meeting that he and the committees'
chairpersons would be guided by laws and the Constitution when
subpoenaing offenders. He said this would further enable Standing
and Select Committees to put in place the necessary checks and
balances required in a legislative process. Persons appearing
before any committee, he said, would be entitled to call on
rights afforded to them when appearing before any tribunal.

JAN welcomed Tjitendero's recognition of the right of journalists
to protect their sources as a "progressive move", particularly
the recognition of journalists' right to protect their sources.
However, in the discussions, he would not be drawn on whether,
for example, there was a possibility that - once the resolution
is passed by Parliament - journalists could be subpoenaed to
reveal sources of recent documents leaked to the media detailing
massive retirement packages for top politicians. Therefore, JAN
says that, resources permitting, it will fight on the grounds of
the constitutional guarantee of media freedom any attempt by
parliamentary committees to subpoena journalists in a bid to
force them to reveal sources of information.

Background Information

On 8 September, Parliament tabled a motion intended to evoke a
provision in the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of
Parliamentary Act 1996, to subpoena any person to appear before
any authorised Parliamentary Standing Committee. Persons
subpoenaed would be compelled to give evidence or to produce any
document in their possession. It also compels any person
subpoenaed to answer any question put forward to him/her. Failure
to comply would constitute an offence. The tabling of this motion
followed soon after the media published information from leaked
documents saying that cabinet was planning to award some top
politicians and military personnel (see IFEX alerts).

Background Information

Recommended Action

Send appeals to authorities:

  • commending the Speaker on his recognition of journalists' rights
    to protect sources
  • urging him to impress upon committee chairpersons the importance
    of this right when tabling the motion and to be guided by the
    Constitution when subpoenaing individuals

    Appeals To

    Rt. Hon. Dr. Mose Tjitendero
    Speaker of the National Assembly
    Private Bag 13323
    Windhoek, Namibia
    Tel: +264 61 2882505
    Fax: +264 61 226899

    Hon Kandi Nehova
    Chairperson of the National Council
    Private Bag 13371
    Windhoek, Namibia
    Tel: +264 61 237561/2/3
    Fax: +264 61 226121

    Copy letters to:

    The Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Hage Geingob
    Office of the Prime Minister
    Private Bag 13338
    Windhoek, Namibia
    Tel: +264 61 2879111
    Fax: +264 61 226189

    Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

  • Source

    Media Institute of Southern Africa
    21 Johann Albrecht Street
    Private Bag 13386
    misaalerts (@) gmail.com
    Fax:+264 61 248016
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