- Botswana journalists are angered by government's enactment of Media Practitioner Act earlier this year, which journalists fear it will restrict their work.
According to a statement issued by MISA Botswana, the organisation was not surprised by rushed enactment of the law, since the government had shown its unprecedented determination to enact the law.
The Media Practitioners Act was passed last year, but lawmakers had asked for amendments and it had been expected to go to parliamentary committees for fine-tuning this year, but instead, the government published it in the official gazette over the holidays, making it into a law.
"Every obstacle, including parliament were side stepped to establish a media council that is supposed to preserve the maintenance of high professional standards within the media and to provide for matters related thereto," said Thapelo Ndlovu, the MISA National Director.
According to the media body, the highly contested law, puts editorial independence of the media houses under threat through the Right to Reply clause. It also forces the media practitioners to register and accredit with the council and the journalism profession, according to MISA statement.
"MISA Botswana does not recognise this law and it is our opinion that media practitioners will abide by some of its clauses under duress and it would not surprise if they distance themselves from other related activities," he said.
He urged media practitioners and human rights activists to sacrifice their comfort and defend people's freedom of expression, saying the newly enacted law deserves no respect.
"Above all, this law removes citizens from the operation of the media. Access to media by non-media has been rendered impossible," said the statement.
Mr Ndlovu views the new media law as a backdrop of a fading democracy. "We are concerned that having diluted media freedom, government will now move its monstrous boots towards other democratic institutions," he said.
MISA Botswana said it is working on bringing journalists together to lobby for media rights.
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