31 October 2008


Government reintroduces Media Practitioners Bill, MISA concerned about journalists' rights

(MISA/IFEX) - MISA-Botswana has expressed concern at the republishing of the Media Practitioners Bill after its withdrawal in August 2008 to give space for more consultation. The bill was brought back despite the fact that no such consultations on the proposed law have taken place between government and media stakeholders. The Government published the contested media bill in the latest Government Gazette. This means that the bill will be up for debate in the coming parliamentary session. This is despite the fact that the Minister of Communication, Science and Technology promised consultations with the media before reintroducing the bill. The bill, among contentious issues, seeks to register journalists as well as set up a statutory media council to enforce a code of conduct on journalists.

In a statement, MISA-Botswana says it still maintains, "That the bill is an unfortunate occurrence in Botswana's democracy as it steals away the very central pillar of the people's rights, which is freedom of expression".

MISA-Botswana warns that the proposed law will damage Botswana's reputation and image as journalism will be criminalised as in Gambia and Zimbabwe. A scenario that MISA-Botswana says should be avoided at all costs is self censorship by the media as a result of fear of this law. "Self censorship by the media means corruption will continue to fester without due attention. Democracy will continue to decline without anyone raising a voice; civil liberties will continue dissipating with impunity and generally tension will cloud this nation as fear of big brother's wrath will prevail".

MISA-Botswana further adds that it will continue to support the Press Council of Botswana in any way possible to either stop the adoption of the bill or identify better ways of dealing with the adoption of the bill in its current form. Media stakeholders in Botswana argue that self regulation is the best form of regulation that avoids heavy handedness in dealing with the media.

MISA-Botswana called upon President Ian Khama to step in and stop the progress of this bill.

"President Khama needs to appreciate the fact that when he gives the state of the nation's address next week the nation will be looking to him for protection and security, not to trample on their freedom of expression. For him to realise the road map he gave in his inauguration speech, people must be free to express their dissatisfaction or satisfaction with his presidency. Shutting them up by way of draconian legislation will not benefit him or anyone in any way".

MISA-Botswana further called upon Members of Parliament to continue debating the bill with open minds and put the interests of the nation first. "This nation chose democracy to guide its governing system and it is high time our leaders remember that. Please reject the bill," reads the statement.

Updates alerts on the Media Practitioners Bill: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/96311


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