Press freedom threatened in Botswana

In Botswana, where the largest newspaper is a government-owned free daily, a controversial “Media Practitioners Bill” is now at the parliamentary committee stage before the final vote. The bill will result in installing a statutory media regulatory body and the mandatory registration of media workers.

The Botswana chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa opposes the bill, stating that it infringes on free expression rights as well as imposes unreasonable penalties on the media through the statutory regulatory body. The Press Council of Botswana (PCB) states:

Experience with the Botswana legislative system shows that Parliamentary process is, in the majority of instances, merely a rubber-stamping exercise. It would therefore come as no surprise to us that the Bill would in fact pass into law.

The bill was first initiated in 1997 as the “mass media bill”, it re-emerged in 2001, at which point it was shelved again. The Media Practitioners Bill was first published on 27 June 2008 but was then deferred to the current sitting after objections from some policy makers and media organizations. The government promised to look into the issues raised. Surprisingly the bill was brought back in November without any consultations having taken place. (AllAfrica.com)

Even the government owned Daily News is not immune for interference (see also UNHCR report).

Boyce Sebetela, minister of Communication, Science and Technology, decided for instance to drop the popular “Political Profiles” column from the Daily News. (IPI)

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