Arrest of two Botswana journalists condemned – The Namibian
Botswana’s press freedom is below fireplace because the latest arrest of two outstanding journalists has sparked outrage amongst media organisations and editors in Namibia and elsewhere in Africa.
On Thursday, Ryder Gabathuse, the editor of the Botswana-based newspaper Mmegi, and reporter Harmless Selatlhwa have been reportedly arrested at their places of work by roughly 10 armed members of the Directorate of Intelligence and Safety Companies (Diss) in a stunning show of intimidation.
Gabathuse endured a four-hour interrogation session.
Whereas he was finally launched, the police reportedly refused to return his confiscated cellphone and laptop computer.
Frank Steffen, the chairperson of the Editors’ Discussion board of Namibia (EFN), says the incident raises severe issues about press freedom and private liberties in Botswana.
“That is extraordinarily regarding in a rustic that was once an instance to southern African states up to now concerning private freedom, together with press freedom,” he says.
One notably alarming element, as talked about in a broadly circulated tweet, is the remark reportedly made by one of many officers through the arrest: “I’m a warrant.”
“What clearly proves this to be a severe breach is the arbitrary method of the arrest that resulted in a launch with out cost, but the authorities held on to the digital gear of those journalists. This can’t be condoned by anybody,” Steffen says. Joseph Ailonga, the secretary basic of Saef, says the incident undermines democracy and freedom of the media within the broader Southern African Growth Group (SADC) area.
“We hope that Botswana and the SADC will take this very critically and make sure that it turns into extra progressive when it comes to freedom of the media,” he says.
Tangeni Amupadhi, the editor of The Namibian, says the harrassment of journalists not solely has a direct affect on media professionals, but additionally impacts society as a complete.
“The authorities want to enhance on the best way they deal with journalists and press freedom and different situations of freedom of expression,” he says.
Willie Mponda, the chairperson of the Southern African Editors’ Discussion board (Saef), factors out the detrimental affect these actions may have on Botswana’s standing within the international press freedom index.
“We implore the Botswana authorities to embrace a tradition of freedom of expression and freedom of the media with out intimidation, as they’re the bedrock of a democratic state,” he says. Botswana, as soon as a shining instance of freedom of expression and freedom of the media, now ranks fortieth on the 2023 Reporters With out Borders Index.
The latest arbitrary arrests of Gabathuse and Selatlhwa have reignited issues in regards to the felony process and proof invoice in Botswana. The Botswana Editors’ Discussion board and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Botswana beforehand fought this invoice, and their efforts led to necessary adjustments earlier than it turned regulation.
One of many essential modifications was that every one companies, together with Diss, have been required to stick to the rule of regulation and couldn’t arrest and detain people at their discretion.
“Saef and Taef (The African Editors’ Discussion board) stand prepared to assist editors in Botswana because it did final yr, ought to the necessity come up once more,” Mponda says.
Taef chairperson Jovial Rantao has expressed shock, stating the arrests are dangerous to democracy and smacks of dictatorship.
Rantao calls on Diss to publicly apologise for his or her unlawful actions and return Gabathuse’s laptop computer and cellphone.
“They need to guarantee residents of Botswana that they may respect the position of the media and won’t abuse the ability accorded to them by the structure,” he says.
The organisation calls on the editor and journalists to take authorized motion in opposition to the Diss.
“We name on the president of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, to publicly rein within the Diss and different law-enforcement companies and make sure that a local weather is created during which media freedom will reign because the nation prepares for nationwide elections,” Rantao says.
In the meantime, Misa Botswana and the Botswana Editors’ Discussion board have met and engaged the management of the Diss, throughout which the latter conceded that the way during which the 2 have been arrested was regrettable.
“Diss subsequently recommitted to interact the media extra usually within the furtherance of a greater working relationship,” the 2 organisations stated in a joint assertion.