World Association of News Publishers

WAN-IFRA Board Press Freedom Resolution - Botswana, June 2017

WAN-IFRA Board Press Freedom Resolution - Botswana, June 2017

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The Board of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), meeting in Durban, South Africa, on 7th June 2017, calls for renewed global solidarity with the Botswana press in the wake of attacks and the hardening government stance against independent, free media.

The Board of WAN-IFRA denounces an on-going campaign by the Botswana government to attack and intimidate the press as a means of silencing criticism and marginalising opposition voices. The Board notes the on-going assault through security agencies under the pretext of national security, nationalism and patriotism, as well as the dearth of political will to introduce legislative reform that would enable access to information and protection of journalists’ rights.

The Board was outraged by the March 2017 arrest and detention of Ink Center for Investigative Journalism members Joel Konopo, Ntibinyane A. Ntibinyane and Kaombona Kanani during their investigation of President Ian Khama’s use of state resources to develop his personal residence in Mosu. The Board similarly regrets to acknowledge the arrest of journalists Tiro Richardson, Keikantse Shumba, and Bogosi Ramadudu during their coverage of picketing outside parliament by members of the #unemploymentmovement in August 2016, as well as the September 2016 police raid on GabzFM and subsequent ban from hosting live morning shows for allegedly contravening Section 37 of the Communications Regulatory Act (CRA) Act. The use of security forces to interfere with reporting is inconsistent with press freedom in its most basic form.

The Board was further concerned that these interferences continue a growing recent history of press freedom violations, including the March 2016 arrest and detention of Sonny Seriteand the May 2015 raids on Botswana Gazette, which resulted in the arrest and detention of Lawrence Seretse, Innocent Selatlhwa, and Shike Olsen. The Board also notes with concern the Botswana Police Service Criminal Investigation Division’s interference in the Sunday Standard’s reporting, as well as the associated 2014 detention of journalist Outsa Mokone and intimidation of Edgar Tsimane. The Board supports Mokone’s on-going appeal against sedition charges. Journalists must be permitted to operate without fear of the security services or legal action.

The Board of WAN-IFRA regrets to acknowledge the vilification of investigative journalism by President Khama, including his April 1, 2016, classification of “opposition media” that “peddle all these unpatriotic tendencies” and “attempt to undermine our constitution.” Such remarks damage the public trust in media and continue a regrettable trend of government attacks, including a 2013 government initiative to fund defamation suits against journalists. While the fund has yet to materialize in legislation, attorneys representing media houses have noted that defamation suits have risen between 30-40 percent since January 2014. The Board denounces efforts by government to dissuade critical reporting.

The Board emphasizes the vital role of free media for democracy in Botswana, and notes the unlawful nature of government attempts to interference in editorial content, as recognised by the Botswana High Court in 2001. The Board is concerned by a growing trend for punishing critical private media via the withdrawal of government advertising, and calls for a fair and transparent system of allocation to be applied as a means of combatting instances of soft-censorship. The Board acknowledges the 2015 Whistle Blower Act, but remains concerned that the law criminally sanctions employees who disclose information to the media. The Board’s concern is compounded by the fact that legislation promoting access to information and that gives the media the ability to investigate and expose governance issues and abuses, has not been passed, despite repeated calls since 2001.

The Board of WAN-IFRA reminds Botswana of its obligations as a signatory to international conventions regarding freedom of expression, and it unequivocally calls on the country’s international partners to do more to pressure President Ian Khama’s government into guaranteeing an environment that better protects media freedom and the independence of journalists.


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2017-06-02 00:27

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In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...