President Geingob supported freedom of speech and journalist safety: Aochamub

WINDHOEK: Former President Hage Geingob was a staunch believer in the rule of law, particularly in freedom of speech, media freedom, and the safety of journalists.

This is how the late president’s former press secretary, Albertus Aochamub, who is currently the Namibian Ambassador to France, remembered his former principal.

‘What was important was his belief in the rule of law. And press freedom for him was a human right. It is the first thing that the struggle for freedom was all about – the right to free expression,’ Aochamub told Nampa in an interview.

Aochamub, who became presidential spokesperson when President Geingob was first voted into office in 2015, said the late Head of State guaranteed the safety of journalists.

‘He would remind us every day that for as long as he is president and as long as he is able to influence the history of this country, no journalist or media practitioner will ever be touched for doing their work,’ he said.

The former director general of the Namibian Broadcasting Corpo
ration noted that Geingob’s commitment to openness was one of the reasons he enjoyed his role as press secretary.

‘Was my job as press secretary difficult? Actually to the contrary, it was made much easier because you had a principal who believed in the work that needed to be done to tell the Namibian story in its totality. Transparency, as you know, was another hallmark of his presidency. And by allowing media access to meetings that traditionally in many jurisdictions around the world are the preserve of the bureau principals only, that was his way of saying we are at the service of the nation, and the nation needs to hear the unedited version of the truth as it unfolds,’ Aochamub recalled.

He added that the former president always insisted that journalists write and report the facts as they are.

‘The second thing is on the editorial pages. There you can express an opinion because that is where you have the freedom to say ‘this is my interpretation’. So he didn’t have to agree; he knew that’s your opinio
n,’ Aochamub said.

However, according to Aochamub, Geingob did not take kindly to the media portraying Namibia in a negative light.

‘It was always how we project our country, because this is the only home we have. And if we don’t protect it at all costs, we will probably live to regret the day when we realise that we sold our soul to the devil, because we believe that, as an Afropessimist, you are doing justice to your career but at the expense of the country,’ he said.

Aochamub, who is also the Permanent Delegate of Namibia to UNESCO, recalled how President Geingob spent his mornings poring over newspapers and online news to stay up-to-date. He said the former Statesman was an early riser who was always ahead of them.

‘First in the morning, you will know that when the call comes, usually around 07h00, he will have gone through everything that has been published in the printed press, electronic media, and the discussion on social media. He spent an hour combing through reactions to the previous day’s even

‘And a lot of the discussion revolves around things that concern the citizens. So the first phone call will revolve around the usual question: ‘Did you see that?’. But you don’t know what it is, so you have to politely ask, ‘Which one?’ And then the discussion would start around the details of what was reported and how it was reported, either factually or incorrectly. And how he needed to explain more because it seems as if we have not been clear. That would have been the start and usually set the tone for the rest of the day,’ Aochamub recalled.

Aochamub has taken a leave from his diplomatic duties in Paris and is actively involved in the organisation of daily memorial services and the arrangements for the former Head of State’s burial on 25 February.

Source: The Namibia Press Agency