registration to the association. The professional
bodies are independent institutions or organisations
whose founding documents or constitutions are
very clear with regards to who can and cannot be
registered as a journalist. The focus of this Media
Practitioners Bill should therefore be on registration
with the Association, being the body established
through this proposed law.

provisions of other laws that unjustifiably limit the
right to media freedom and free expression.

One of the Committees of the Association will be the
Ethics and Conduct Committee which is responsible
for the development of a Code of Ethics for journalists
and media enterprises. It is progressive that the law
provides that after developing or reviewing the Code,
the Committee shall submit it to the annual general
meeting of the Association. This is crucial as it will
provide a consultative process in the development
of the Code of Ethics and the involvement of the
media industry and stakeholders in the process.

This position was reaffirmed by the Constitutional
Court in the matter of MISA Zimbabwe vs Ministry of
Justice, 2016, and declared that criminal penalties for
defamation are a disproportionate and unnecessary
interference with freedom of expression.

The Bill indicates that the Code of Ethics should
include the following aspects:
Duties and obligations of journalists
and media enterprises.
Protection of minors.
Protection of persons suffering from
a physical or mental disability.
Fair competition in the media
Protection of privacy of individuals.
Unlawful publication of defamatory
matter in accordance with the provisions of
the penal Code.
development of journalists.
Sexual exploitation or abuse.
Gender equality.
Unbiased and unfair treatment.
The key concern regarding the above aspects is
the requirement to include unlawful publication of
defamatory matter in accordance with the provisions
of the Penal Code. The Botswana Penal Code in
Section 192 provides for criminal defamation and in
Section 195 provides for unlawful publication.
The Code notes that any publication of defamatory
matter concerning a person is unlawful within the
meaning of this division unless the matter is true
and it was in the public interest or if it is privileged
as elaborated further in the law.
Criminal sanctions are not necessary to the objective
of the law of defamation, which seeks to promote
the reporting of true and genuine information
and seeks to compensate aggrieved or defamed
persons. Civil penalties should be relied on for any
defamatory matter.
The Code of Ethics should therefore not entrench

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, the Constitutional
Court in the matter of Madanhire vs Attorney
General, 2014, declared that the offense of criminal
defamation is unconstitutional and inconsistent
with the protection of freedom of expression.

In light of such best practices in other jurisdictions,
it would be prudent for the Code of Ethics to
regurgitate such provisions.
Further, the law also establishes the Complaints
Committee which is responsible for mediation and
adjudication of disputes on issues between the
government and the media enterprises, the public
and the media enterprises, a journalist and the
public, or any other person, and also between or
among media enterprises.
Clause 57 provides for the lodging of complaints and
highlights that any aggrieved person may submit a
written compliant to the Complaints Committee
setting out the grounds for the complaint. The
Bill is also progressive in that it makes provision
for illiterate people, who are allowed to file their
complaints orally and the Secretariat of the
Complaints Committee shall record such complaint
in writing.
The law should, however, also make elaborate
provision for people with disabilities, who should
equally be able to file complaints orally or with the
assistance of a legal practitioner or any other person
of their choice.
Further, the law should also allow for complaints
to be filed in any of the official languages or in the
native language of the complainant.
When the Complaints Committee has received a
complaint, called for a hearing and have assessed
both written and oral evidence brought before it,
the Bill highlights that the Complaints Committee
shall in considering a complaint brought before it,
provide effective and efficient services and shall
submit its decision to the parties as soon as is
reasonably practicable.
It is important that this provision sets a timeline
with regards to the number of days or weeks within
which the decision should be made known to the
parties as justice delayed is justice denied.
In terms of Clause 58, any person aggrieved with
the decision of the Complaints Committee can file

Analysis of the Botswana Media Practitioners’ Association Bill, 2022


Select target paragraph3