12 December 2008

Botswana: Parliament Presses Ahead With Media Practitioners Bill Despite Criticism

press release

On 10 December 2008, the Botswana Parliament pressed ahead with passing of the controversial Media Practitioners Bill. The bill, which faced fierce objections and an outcry from the media and the public in general, is now at the parliamentary committee stage before the final vote.

The bill provides for the setting up of a statutory media regulatory body and the mandatory registration of media workers. MISA-Botswana opposes the bill, stating that it infringes on free expression rights as well as imposes unreasonable penalties on the media through the statutory regulatory body.

Meanwhile the media has mandated the Press Council of Botswana (PCB) to take legal recourse. In a press statement, the PCB lamented the turn of events: "Experience with the Botswana legislative system shows that Parliamentary process is, in the majority of instances, merely a rubber-stamping exercise."

BACKGROUND:

The Media Practitioners Bill (Bill No. 31 of 2008) was first published on 27 June but was then deferred to the current sitting after objections from some policy makers and media organisations. The government promised then to look into the issues raised. Surprisingly the bill was brought back in November without any consultations having taken place.

The bill was first initiated in 1997 as the mass media bill. The media successfully defeated it but it later re-emerged in 2001, at which point it was shelved again after an outcry.

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