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Protection of environmental journalists crucial amid oil discoveries – media activists

Written by on May 5, 2024

The Namibia Media Trust (NMT) has called for the protection of environmental journalists who courageously expose environmental injustices and hold the powerful accountable.

In a statement released yesterday, ahead of the 31st World Press Freedom Day, NMT director Zoe Titus said the work of journalists is more crucial than ever, ensuring those in power are scrutinised and environmental wrongdoings are exposed.

“Particularly in Namibia, the developments in extractive industries, especially in oil, gas and green hydrogen, demand critical examination of their impacts on affected communities and sustainable environmental practices,” she said.

Titus says optimal transparency is essential, and Namibia would benefit from confirming its membership in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative to ensure open and accountable management of its oil, gas and mineral resources.

“All around us, we witness the erosion of press freedom and, tragically, the loss of life among those who have devoted themselves to the cause of independent, public interest journalism,” she said.

Titus added that the organisation particularly pays tribute to the courageous journalists in Palestine and their long-suffering families, those in Ukraine, the Sahel region, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon, among others.

She said these journalists have faced profound risks and paid the ultimate price in their relentless pursuit to uncover the truth and inform the public.

Jemima Beukes

This year’s World Press Freedom Day is commemorated under the theme ‘A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis’, which places importance on transparency and sustainable journalism.

Titus called on journalists, policymakers and the public to embrace the principles of sustainable journalism to commit to protect, educate and empower.

“We honour the legacy of the Windhoek Declaration and the Windhoek+30 Declaration. Together, let us ensure that our journalism not only survives, but thrives as a force for good, safeguarding our planet and democratic values for future generations,” she said.

Titus paid tribute to former president Hage Geingob’s commitment to press freedom.

“As we approach the impending presidential [and National Assembly] elections, his legacy reminds us of the crucial role that a free press plays in ensuring fair and informed electoral processes. This aligns perfectly with this year’s theme for World Press Freedom Day,” she said.

Meanwhile, Namibia Media Professionals Union acting secretary Jemima Beukes said it is important to recognising the critical role of journalists in informing public discourse and holding power to account.

She said there is an urgent need for journalists to be equipped with the requisite skills and knowledge to effectively cover the complexities of the oil and gas sector.

“The oil and gas industry is characterised by intricate legal frameworks, technical terminology and opaque practices, presenting unique challenges for journalists,” Beukes said.

The union called upon newsrooms to prioritise the specialisation of reporters in the oil and gas sector and invest in specialised training and resources to enhance the quality and depth of their coverage.

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