Free vs. False: Namibia's Changing Media Landscape Presents Tough Choices for Citizens

The World Press Freedom Index considers Namibia the African country with the freest media environment, ranking 23rd in the world. While the media environment may be relatively free, senior Namibian politicians are often cynical about the media and journalists. Relations between the country’s media and its political leaders appear tentative at best. As a result, Reporters Without Borders (2019) describes the position of Namibia’s media as “real freedom but frequent threats.” The most recent Afrobarometer survey findings reflect a similar ambiguity in citizens’ views of the media. Namibians are frequent news consumers – most often via radio but increasingly also from the Internet and social media – and consider their media largely free. Yet fewer citizens than ever support media freedom from government interference. Views are quite conflicted with regard to social media, which is both valued for making users more informed and effective participants in political processes and blamed for spreading fake news and intolerance. Majorities endorse government restrictions on false news, hate speech, and even information or opinions that the government disapproves of. At the same time, more than half think unrestricted access to the Internet and social media should be protected.