Freedom of expression that is clearly guaranteed in the Constitution of Botswana
is negated by the enactment of several other pieces of legislation that severely
impact on public information rights.
The clampdown on information has increased and Batswana are speaking out less
while information is severely restricted in both practise and by policy. The Public
Services Act, National Security Act and the Corruption and Economic Crime Act
(CECA) contain provisions restricting access to public information.
The legislative and political landscape has visibly altered in Botswana over the last
two years and a culture of fear and intimidation has permeated the atmosphere.
Stories abound of the military abducting youths and warning them against being
“troublesome” resulting in curtailed freedom of movement. By nightfall there are
very few people out and about on the streets while entertainment dies down by
This can be directly linked to the change in the country’s leadership. Since
President Lieutenant General, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, as he insists on being
called took over power, there has been a dramatic transformation in the style of
governance. He is highly rigid and dictatorial and this stems from his strong
military background. Those nearest and dearest to him have a military background
too: his deputy is a retired army general, while his press liaison officer is a former
Decisions are often taken solely by the Executive with no consultation and anyone
in government, who opposes the President is sidelined. This abuse of power is
perpetuated by the traditional belief amongst the Batswana that, once the chief
has spoken everyone must fall in line. This tradition of according respect to elders
extends to the media with journalists ignoring the transgression of senior officials
while younger reporters will not ask the tough questions.
The recent appointment of public relations officers to government ministries creates
the impression they will facilitate the flow of information into the public domain
but this is far removed from the reality. Under the Public Services Act which
governs them, civil servants and the PROs working for the various ministries can
be instantly dismissed for speaking to the media or providing information without
permission from the Minister or the Permanent Secretary of a particular ministry.
These restrictions are further impeded by the passing of the Media Practitioners
Act (MPA) at the end of last year. The MPA was passed with only the semblance



Select target paragraph3