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Police should stop harassment of journalists

Private media in Botswana is more often treated like outcasts. They are harassed, beaten, arrested for flimsy excuses and intimidated to drop their investigations on powerful individuals in the country.

The anti-media brigade forgets the role played by the media in the country. They ignore the fact that members of the Fourth Estate play a crucial role in this country’s democracy.

Ours is one of the most important jobs and no amount of intimidation, harassment, physical assaults and arrest will deter us from this calling. We will continue to report without fear, favour but responsibly. Over the years we have seen the arrests of several journalists and raiding of other newspaper offices and many more outrageous incidents.

Some public servants harass journalists for doing their work, and the public should condemn them for such acts. Batswana should condemn such behaviour, as such acts will kill freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in the constitution.

The harassment of private media practitioners at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport on Wednesday, during the arrival of the victorious Botswana contingent from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, left us in utter shock and disbelief.

The police and the Botswana National Olympic Committee officials would not allow members of the private media workers access to the athletes. The overzealous and immature police officers made sure that they pushed and shoved these journalists despite the fact that they were invited as compatriots to cover this important event. They only wanted the government full access to the athletes and senior government officials. Private media journalists were told that only the government media was allowed to

catch images from good angles.

 When the journalists refused to abide to this ridiculous instruction, the overly excited members of the police were invited to assault the journalists. Subsequent to that MISA Botswana put this aptly in their statement:

“The degeneration in the civil standards of the police service is a concern. It has become normal for Police officers to routinely harass journalists in the course of their work. It is a phenomenon we observed with increasing regularity in the last decade. We thought it was a culture inculcated from the top leadership given that it was always an open secret that the former President Ian Khama had little regard for journalists.

“It would seem therefore that our Police Force (the more suitable term) is still stuck in that time warp, where every Police officer sees a journalist as an enemy to be harassed and fondled at will. We have been observing this with increasing concern from the unlawful detention of journalists without access to lawyers, to the recent manhandling of female journalists recording a police arrest”.

We agree with MISA-Botswana and call upon the relevant authorities to take necessary action against the culprits.


Today’s thought

“We will be engaging with all relevant stakeholders involved in this sorry affair and going forward with any other institution that seeks to maintain this dismissive attitude towards one of the major partners in our democratic space, the independent media.” 

– MISA Botswana Board




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