Dr. Tachilisa Balule, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Botswana has accused the government of Botswana of breaching Section12 (1) of the Constitution of Botswana of failing to put up a proper administrative framework that will promote the enjoyment of media freedom in Botswana.
Balule was speaking during “The Big Debate” on Duma FM on Saturday during a two day Southern African Investigative Journalism Conference organized by INK Center for Investigative Journalism.
Section 12 (1) of the Constitution which addresses the protection of Freedom of Expression states that “Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, that is to say, freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference (whether the communication be to the public generally or to any person or class of persons) and freedom from interference with his correspondence.”
Dr. Balule argues that since the section guarantees media freedom, it has the “negative obligation” that government should not interfere with the enjoyment of media freedom. He also explains that because of that section, there is also a “positive obligation” for the government to put in place an administrative system or legislation framework that will promote the enjoyment of media freedom in Botswana.
“To promote the enjoyment of media freedom there are certain laws that must be put in place that support Section 12; (1) and one of them being the right to access information which we currently do not have in Botswana. That alone is a breach of Section 12; (1) by the government of Botswana,” he explained.
Among the laws that he says should have been put in place in the past 50 years as a way of promoting media freedom by the government is that of; “The confidentiality of sources and whistle blowers”. He says unlike in other countries where people are free to use the media as a platform where they can report any maladministration to the media without fear of being revealed, in Botswana investigation journalism is struggling because there is no law that guarantees confidentiality of sources in place.
“On the contrary we have laws that other progressive democratic countries have since declared unconstitutional because they hinder the freedom of expression or media freedom but we still operate under those laws here in Botswana,” he said.
He cited sedition laws and criminal defamation among others as clear examples that Botswana government is doing very little if not nothing in trying to promote media freedom and that makes it harder for the media to thrive in their mandate as the fourth estate. “I tried to figure out what law the government has enacted in the last 50 years whose main purpose is to facilitate the media in playing its role freely; there is none,” Dr. Balule argued.
He also condemned the government of Botswana for still upholding some of the laws that other countries have declared unconstitutional, saying they are only keeping them to sensor media content which is breaching Section 12. (1).
On the same issue, Anton Harber who is the editor of ENCA tv news channel in South Africa cautioned the government and particularly politicians against always trying to shut down the media but instead use it for checks and balances on how they can improve. “Wise politicians and leaders spend less time in trying to shut down the media but more time and using the media as a tool to keep up with their progress and where to improve,” he said.