President Hifikepunye Pohamba's government has come under increasing
criticism after the state broadcasting company
shut down a popular phone-in radio program, saying callers deluged
it with hate speech and cultural insensitivity. Opponents condemned the Namibia
government, saying the move is an infringement on freedom of speech. They
accused the ruling party of silencing opponents ahead of this year's general
elections. They also accused the government of flouting the constitution,
saying freedom of speech is enshrined in the Namibia constitution. But the
government maintains that hate speech, xenophobia, and tribalism will not be
tolerated, adding that if not curbed they would undermine the country's peace
and stability. Executive director Phil ya Nangoloh of the Namibia National
Society for Human Rights tells reporter Peter Clottey that the radio program's
cancelation is a way for the government to tighten its grip on media ahead of
is part of a move by a small group of people within the ruling SWAPO (South
West African People's Organization) party to silence criticism ahead of the
presidential or the general elections taking place towards the end of this
year. It is simply like that and there is no other way to explain it," Nangoloh
said although the government has the right to protect Namibian citizens from
vitriolic attacks, it did not act in good faith, claims Nangoloh, since there
were no such attacks from members of the opposition on the radio program.
was no such thing whatsoever. We saw this coming when they first started with
the summary dismissal of the director general of the NBC (Namibia Broadcasting
Cooperation). We are the chairman of the board of directors. And they started
purging any other persons from the ruling party and the government who are
deemed to be critical or who are deemed to be not members of the ruling party.
So this is really a wider range move to silence criticism ahead of the
election, and it is part of the electoral campaign," he said.
said partisans of the
ruling SWAPO movement are behind the abuse language used on radio shows in the
country contrary to what the government claims.
fact it is the other way round because supporters of the government are people
from mainly the youth wing and the elders' wing of the ruling party. And these
are the ones who have been engaging in hate speeches, xenophobia and similar
impermissible forms of expression. But they (the government) are now turning it
around," Nangoloh pointed out.
He said human rights
organizations operating in the country support the move to rein in verbal attacks
on ethnic groups on radio programs.
"We as a human rights
organization will in principle support any move that is genuinely aimed at
curbing hate speech. But this is not the case in this regard," he said.
Nangoloh denied claims that
the government has the power to employ or determine who works for state
"Our constitution in terms
of article 18 of the constitution. They (government) are required in state
bodies and administrations such as ministers and others to act reasonably and
fairly and comply with the requirement of the law, and if this was this article
was being complied with, then we would have no problems with the action of the
government," Nangoloh noted.
He described the
government's termination of the radio program as a dictatorship.
"This is an undemocratic
move, and McCarthy's move is in fact similar to steps that have been taken
against critics in Zimbabwe by Robert Mugabe and his cohorts," he said.