Botswana: Media’ Law Is An Assault On Freedom Of Expression

Isaiah Morewagae, Staff Writer
reverend_prince_dibeela.jpgReverend Prince Dibeela The Media Practitioner's Act has been described as an assault on the fundamental liberty of Freedom of Expression enshrined in the Constitution.

free_the_press.jpgThe law, which requires that journalists be registered or accredited to
the government is made to curtail something that is not enshrined in
the Constitution, ‘but that which is part of our self-understanding as

Secretary General for the United Congregational Church of Southern
Africa (UCCSA) Reverend Prince Dibeela, said during the commemoration
of World Press Freedom Day in Gaborone on Saturday that there is a
general intolerance on the part of the ruling party with regard to
people who speak ‘out of turn’ from their policies and political

"Some of us have been saying for a while now that there is a systematic
process of voices in our country that do not sing the tune prescribed
by those with legislative power," Dibeela said.

He was concerned that the country is moving away from the adage that
mafoko a Kgotla a mantle otlhe as the Act is altering this worldview
and suggesting mafoko a Kgosi a mantle fela fa a itumedisa kgosi kana

Dibeela further said media in the country has had a love-hate
relationship with the government over the years. He commended the media
for having distinguished itself for being robust and critical in a
culture where people are generally laid back and submissive to the
leaders, despite its many challenges.

"This is of course what has vexed the government and led to this piece of legislation," Dibeela said.

He added that the law is a direct assault that is meant to intimidate and manage what comes out of the media houses.

Dibeela was concerned by the intransigence and self-importance of the
majority party in Parliament. He said the way democracy is practiced
should be around building consensus.

"But our system is such that because of skewed nature on the
representation in parliament, laws are passed without sufficient
discussion. The backbench of the ruling party used to add value to
parliamentary debates by speaking their minds on critical issues
affecting this country, but the current leadership has continually
threatened and silence them," Rev. Dibeela said.

He was also concerned that Botswana is fast becoming a ‘big brother’
state. "We are increasingly creating a society that is over-regulated.
Every other week there is a new law or a directive that is meant to
control us and the way we live our lives," Dibeela said.

He said beside the two most controversial laws that were recently
enacted, that is, Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services and
Media Practitioners Act, there is also a plethora of directives to do
with entertainment industry, traffic regulations and public conduct.
"The challenge though is that the way these regulations are developed
is a departure from our usual culture of consultation and consensus
building," said Dibeela.

He said even though Botswana is the most outspoken and critical of
draconian governments such as Zimbabwe, they may as well have
plagiarised the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) of the Mugabe

Today it is the journalists being regulated and required to register
with the government. My question is: Who is next? Will it be the
pastors, scholars, teachers and all other professionals? Will it in
fact even be husband and wife in their relationship? Where will this
stop?" Dibeela asked.


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