Press freedom under threat in Botswana – CAJ News Africa

from ODIRILE TOTENG in Gaborone, Botswana
GABORONE, (CAJ News) THE media fraternity is concerned about Botswana’s plans to enact legislation allowing police and other investigators to intercept journalists’ communications.

The Criminal Procedure and Evidence (Controlled Inquiry) Bill would grant investigators the power to intercept communications without a warrant for up to 14 days if they are authorized by the head of an investigating authority to investigate offenses or to prevent their commission.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it has previously documented the arrest and prosecution of journalists in Botswana, highlighting local police use of digital forensics tools in 2019 and 2020 to extract thousands of files from journalists’ devices.

This includes communications and contacts, with the aim of identifying the sources of their reports.

Companies that facilitate communication could see their administrators jailed for up to ten years if they fail to install hardware or software that enables interception; anyone who fails to provide decryption keys so authorities can access the encrypted information could be imprisoned for up to six years.

Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa Program Coordinator, said Botswana’s parliament should scrap the Controlled Inquiries Bill, which threatens journalists’ ability to communicate privately with their sources.

“Authorities should implement laws that protect the privacy and safety of journalists, not expose them to unchecked surveillance,” she said.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi is expected to sign the bill this week.

Jovial Rantao, President of the African Publishers Forum, said: “The Bill is the worst piece of legislation to emerge in Botswana, the Southern Africa region and the rest of the continent in recent history.

Kagiso Thomas Mmusi, Botswana’s Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, reportedly said there was a need for legislation that could close legal and security loopholes related to money laundering and terrorist financing issues. terrorism.

– CAJ News

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