Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse has appealed to cabinet to repeal the Media Practitioners Act, as it has never been implemented since it was introduced in 2008. The Media Practitioners Act of 2008, criminalises journalism, restricts media work and intimidates journalists. It promotes self-censorship by publishers, journalists and editors.
In a draft Bill which will be presented to the National Assembly, Keorapetse stated that this Act was however never implemented mainly because key stakeholders refuse to participate yet their participation is mandatory in the Act. “The majority of stakeholders subscribe to the international standard of self-regulation, media freedom and are of the view that it is a draconian and regressive law.
“It is intended therefore that by introducing this Bill, the status quo, continues until such time when a proper instrument is brought for Parliament’s consideration,” stated Keorapetse. The law was enacted under the pretext of providing for self regulation but fell short of the key principles of self-regulation and therefore undermines media freedoms.
Parliament and the government must accept the reality that it’s been impossible to enforce and implement the Act for ten years. “Why have a law that you cannot use for a decade? Even the Court of Appeal has advised that such laws should be repealed,” stated the MP. He explained that as the UDC they are of the opinion that since independence, freedom of information and freedom of speech (liberty to express opinions and ideas without hindrance and without fear of punishment) have been restricted and controlled by Botswana’s strong authoritarian state.
“Political leaders should answer to the public on the disposal of their powers and duties, act upon criticisms or demands made of them, and accept responsibility for failure, blunders, incompetence or deceit. This is only achievable if there is free media which is able to work without fear,” said Keorapetse. Keorapetse said they will argue that there is a need to reform restrictive laws that impede media freedom and freedom of information and expression.
“We will ask the government to review Laws such as the National Security Act, Corruption and Economic Crime Act, Penal Code, Cinematography Act, Immigration Act and Public Service statutes which contain media unfriendly provisions which must be looked into,” he said.
He added that reform of the state media is also essential and one way of ensuring greater transparency and accountability and this should be done through granting it autonomy by making it a public enterprise/parastatal with an independent board.