Harassed journalists enlist attorney Bayford in bid to sue Government

Nicholas Mokwena - BG reporter
Monday, 20 March 2017
Harassed journalists enlist attorney Bayford in bid to sue Government

Three journalists from INK Centre for Investigative Journalism who were allegedly arrested, detained and threatened in Mosu by security agents have roped in Human Rights Lawyer Dick Bayford in a looming litigation against government.

The journalists were allegedly working on a story to investigate claims of corruption regarding the construction taking place at President Ian Khama’s home in Mosu. The trio, Joel Konopo Managing Partner at INK Centre, Ntibinyane Ntibinyane and Kaombona Kanani, was arrested last week Wednesday. Konopo confirmed in an interview with Botswana Guardian that they met Bayford this week regarding their last week’s ordeal. He said they are however still waiting for Letlhakane police to finish their investigations after they reported the matter to the Police Station.

“We want to give the police time to do their investigations. We have made statements at Letlhakane Police Station regarding the issue of threats and the issue of motor vehicles registration numbers, which the agents kept on changing making us suspicious. After completion of the investigation then our lawyer will express his interest into the matter by contacting the police”, said Konopo.

He explained that they are considering litigation because if the threats continue unchallenged they pose a threat to the country’s media industry. Konopo mentioned the issue of a Sunday Standard Newspaper reporter, Edgar Tsimane who has fled the country fearing for his security.

He said there are other cases of intimidation against journalists that have not been challenged. Konopo also dismissed claims by Government through its Spokesperson Dr. Jeff Ramsay that the trio was detained after they sought to trespass into a restricted area.  In a statement, Dr. Ramsay said the trio wanted to enter a restricted area that is the private property of President Khama, without any authorisation or prior communication. But Konopo countered saying in fact they were stopped by the security agents about five (5) Kilometers away from Khama’s residence. He wondered how one would conclude that a person wants to trespass when they are such far away from the purported area of trespassing.

Botswana Media and Allied Workers Union (BOMAWU) also expressed shock at the arrest, detention and threats leveled against the trio. Its Secretary General, Victor Baatweng said they are utterly disturbed by the incident as it violates the very foundation of a free media.  He stated that the union extends its solidarity to the three reporters and wish to encourage its members to continue with their noble role of informing members of the public on any issues of public interest including suspected corruption acts by the powers that be. Baatweng called on journalists not to fear anyone but report fairly and professionally as they have always done.

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