At the 69th World News Media Congress and the 24th World Editors Forum
in Durban, South Africa in June 2017
the Board of the World Association
of Newspapers and News Publishers
(WAN-IFRA) issued a statement calling
for solidarity with “the Botswana press
in the wake of attacks and the hardening
government stance against independent,
free media.”
Reference was made to the on-going
campaign by the Botswana government
to attack and “intimidate the press as a
means of silencing criticism and marginalising opposition voices.” Mention
was also made of the “assault on the
media through security agencies under
the pretext of national security, nationalism and patriotism, as well as the dearth
of political will to introduce legislative
reform that would enable access to information and protection of journalists’
From the onset President Khama has been
clear about his disdain for the media.
In his speech at a graduation ceremony
at the then Botswana Institute of Administration and Commerce (when he was
still Vice-President), he admitted to the
audience, made up mainly of students
and their parents, that he did not read
local newspapers because - according
to him - their reportage dwelt on the
During one of his first speeches as the
incoming President, he referred to the
4Ds that were part of his election manifesto - democracy, discipline, dignity
and development. As he added the fifth
D – discipline - he went on to mention
the deficiencies of the media. He highlighted the social problems in society
that needed to be addressed as a nation
and made reference to the use of abusive language in public discourse and

defamation, slander and purportedly
false statements in the media.
The gradual shrinking of media freedom, freedom of expression and lack
of access to information was subtle and
languid and comes down to the concentration of power in the Executive.
But the first chink in the armour of good
governance can be traced back to when
President Khama established the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) in 2008 through the passing
of the Intelligence and Security Services
Act, 2007. Even before its enactment,
the Bill was dogged with controversy as
opposition members walked out of Parliament during its debate.
When President Khama transferred
oversight authority of DISS and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic
Crime (DCEC) from the Ministry of Justice, Defence and Security to the Office
of the President it raised issues about the
consolidation of power in the executive
The manner in which the two entities
have operated over ensuing years endorses the perception that these agencies were created “to protect members of the Botswana Democratic Party
(BDP) elite to protect their own partisan
interests.”2 Furthermore, instead of acting as separate entities, the two agencies
seem to have acted in concert to suppress some of the high profile cases involving political elites.
The suppression of information surrounding some of these cases has been
a contentious and sticky point between
the State and the media. Investigations
by journalists into some of these cases
2 A Critical Evaluation of the Intelligence Oversight
Regime in Botswana - Lesego Tsholofelo

So This is Democracy? 2017


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