Namibia: ‘Cops should improve crowd control tactics’

The chairperson of the Namibia Access to Information Coalition, Frederico Links, called on the police to always exercise maximum restraint in handling protests in order to protect human rights.

Links made the call in a press release yesterday following Friday’s protest and arrests in Chinatown in Windhoek. He said “random firing of rubber bullets and tear gas into crowds should be avoided at all costs.”

The coalition is also concerned that journalists have been hit by rubber bullets, and some have been injured.

Links advises media organizations to ensure their journalists wear clothing that clearly identifies them as journalists.

He stated that the rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of the press and freedom of expression are enshrined in the Namibian constitution (Article 21) and furthermore the Police Act states that members of the police cannot resort only to reasonable force in the performance of their duties (Article 13 (ten)).

Previously, he said the Action Coalition condemned the disproportionate use of force by police against #ShutItAllDown protesters and journalists on October 10, 2020.

“We reiterate the call we made at the time for the police to respect human rights and for the force to improve their crowd control tactics. Sensible and proportionate police responses are crucial if the scenes that occurred on Friday and in October 2020 should be avoided,” the coalition chairman said.

He said irresponsible reactions can lead to further conflagrations and have tragic consequences. In this context, we remember Frieda Ndatipo, who was shot dead during a police operation during a public demonstration near Swapo’s headquarters in Katutura on August 27, 2014, Links said.

To date, he said no one has been held responsible for his death.

The coalition said that after six years of economic recession and further hardship inflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic, large swathes of Namibia’s population are suffering, especially young people who face a 50% unemployment rate.

These conditions, he said, are likely to trigger more protests in the future.

“While protests should always be peaceful, it is vital that the Namibian authorities, particularly the police, use tactics that mitigate rather than inflame the expressions of frustration that are sure to come in the form of public protests.” , did he declare.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Publishers Forum of Namibia (EFN) Frank Steffen condemned the violence in Chinatown and the excessive use of force by the Namibian police.

“We noted with concern last week’s incidents of violence in Chinatown in which Namibian police used excessive force to subdue public protests,” Steffen said.

He said the EFN, as a key media group in Namibia, was particularly critical of the Namibian police’s indiscriminate use of riot weapons which drove in and caused injuries to journalists covering the protests.

“While the EFN recognizes that the Namibian Police are responsible for law and order, which entitles them to follow due process, the EFN would like to implore the Police to use physical force as a last resort. absolute,” he said.

He also calls on all media houses to respect the laws of the country at all times.

“Media houses should ensure that journalists are always clearly identified as representatives of the media, especially when reporters enter a conflict zone, which they did when covering this particular protest,” said he declared.

He added that media houses should also train their media professionals to ensure they never expose themselves to parties who wish them harm.

“Journalists must be trained never to be caught in the middle of a conflict or between two parties that take part in a conflict and to ensure that the police or other security forces can see and identify them as media or journalists instead of activists,” he said.