Two Botswana journalists arrested in unexplained circumstances.
Two Botswana journalists were on 20 July 2023 detained by the country’s security services in as yet unexplained circumstances.
The two, Mmegi newspaper editor Editor Ryder Gabathuse and senior reporter Innocent Selatlhwa, were detained by the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS).
They were released at around midnight, without any charge.
DISS confiscated the two’s gadgets, including mobile phones, iPads and laptop computers.
In a statement, MISA Botswana said it had initiated an independent investigation on the matter and expressed “its shock and concern” regarding the detention of the two journalists.
The detention of the two journalists is a cause for concern. MISA is particularly worried by the DIS’s decision to confiscate the two journalists’ gadgets, as this violates the two’s right to privacy and could expose their news sources.
Section 9 of the Constitution bestows upon every person in Botswana the right to privacy and the decision to confiscate their gadgets undermines this right.
Furthermore, the African Union (AU) Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection also known as the Malabo Convention) recognises in its preamble the commitment of the AU to build an information society and to protect “the privacy of its citizens in their daily or professional lives, while guaranteeing the free flow of information”.
The decision to arrest and confiscate the journalists’ gadgets is a tried and tested method that authorities in Botswana rely on when dealing with media workers.
In 2019, Mmegi journalist Tsaone Basimanebotlhe was arrested and had her gadgets confiscated without good reason.
MISA calls on the government and DIS to be transparent about why the two journalists were detained.
Botswana’s media ranking took a sharp dive from 38 in 2021 to 95 in 2022 out of the 180 countries that the Reporters rank without Borders. This remains the steepest fall of 57 points ever recorded in Southern Africa. The rankings improved in 2023, with a recovery from 95 to 65. MISA therefore urges the government of Botswana to uphold the constitution of the republic in the handling of the media and the societal questions of the day to improve the country’s human rights record and its standing among the League of Nations.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) was founded in 1992. Its work focuses on promoting, and advocating for, the unhindered enjoyment of freedom of expression, access to information and a free, independent, diverse and pluralistic media.
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Editor Ryder Gabathuse and senior reporter Innocent Selatlhwa
Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS)