Botswana accused of bullying journalists

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from ODIRILE TOTENG in Gaborone, Botswana
GABORONE, (CAJ News) BOTSWANA authorities have arrested two journalists after their newspaper alleged the country’s intelligence agency helped rig last year’s general elections.

David Baaitse and Kenneth Mosekiemang, of Weekend Post, face charges of “common nuisance” and if convicted, could face fines of up to 5 000 Botswana pula (US$426) or jail terms of up to two years, or both.

The pair were arrested after they photographed a building linked to the Directorate of Intelligence and Security.

It is believed the building contained state-of-the-art equipment that was allegedly was used in an operation involving last year’s election.

The newspaper recently published many investigative pieces about the intelligence agency, including allegations that it helped to rig the poll in favour of President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

State agents have confiscated the journalists’ phones and camera.

However, Baaitse and Mosekiemang have refused to surrender their passwords.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) criticised the arrest of the journalists.

“Baaitse and Mosekiemang should never have been detained, let alone charged for taking a photograph of a building that has been linked to Botswana’s intelligence service,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa programme coordinator.

She said instead of pursuing journalists, Masisi’s administration should reform Botswana’s intelligence service and creating an environment where members of the press can hold elected leaders and the state’s security forces to account.

Batlhalefi Leagajang, the presidential spokesperson, said media freedom had improved under Masisi, in power since 2018.

“Journalists are not above the law. They may be liable to criminal investigation like all other citizens and residents,” he is quoted as saying.

– CAJ News

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