from ODIRILE TOTENG in Gaborone, Botswana
GABORONE, (CAJ News) – THE media fraternity is concerned at plans by Botswana to enact legislation enabling police and other investigators to intercept journalists’ communications.
The Criminal Procedure and Evidence (Controlled Investigation) Bill would grant investigators the power to intercept communications without a warrant for up to 14 days if authorized by the head of an investigatory authority to probe offenses or prevent them from being committed.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it had already documented the arrest and prosecution of journalists in Botswana pointing at local police’s use of digital forensics tools in 2019 and 2020 to extract thousands of files from journalists’ devices.
This includes communications and contacts, in efforts to identify sources of their reporting.
Companies that facilitate communication could see their directors imprisoned for up to ten years if they fail to install hardware or software to enable interception; anyone that does not provide decryption keys so authorities can access encrypted information could be jailed for up to six years.
Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa programme coordinator, said Botswana’s parliament should scrap the controlled investigation bill, which threatens journalists’ ability to communicate privately with sources.
“Authorities should implement laws that protect journalists’ privacy and safety, not expose them to surveillance without oversight,” she said.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi will reportedly sign the bill into law this week.
Jovial Rantao, chairperson of The African Editors Forum, said, “The bill is the worst piece of legislation to have emerged in Botswana, the Southern African region and the rest of the continent in recent history.”
Kagiso Thomas Mmusi Botswana’s Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, has been quoted as saying there was a need for a law that could plug legal and security gaps relating to issues of money laundering and financing of terrorism.
– CAJ News