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Fighting for freedom of expression

CONTROVESIAL: Tshepo Sethibe

Moeladilotlhoko takes govt to court

A case in which a local citizen journalist, Tshepo Sethibe of Moeladilotlhoko Newsboiler publication is challenging the constitutionality of Botswana’s penal code will be brought before the Maun high court on, May 19th, 2023, just a few days after the commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day.
Through his attorney, Jonas Obonye of Obonye Attorneys, Sethibe will challenge section 59(1) of the law which he believes is phrased in vague and intended to curtail freedom of expression in the country. This comes after he was arrested and charged for contravening the section by publishing “false news,” in July last year.
The contention according to Sethibe is that the said section places undue burden on individuals who may seek to exercise their right to expression and that the same law can easily be prone to abuse by those in positions of power who may not like certain expressions from other people.
In support of Sethibe’s case is Southern Africa Litigation centre (SALC) which recently noted in a statement that, “The history of ‘false news’ provisions is initially from a colonial period and was used to fight dissent by those colonisers oppressed. Many African countries with these provisions in the law have since taken steps to remove them and allow for freedom of expression.”
SALC’s further contention which is expected to be raised in court is that, “The right to freedom of expression is protected by Section 12(1) of the Botswana Constitution. It is also recognised regionally and internationally under Articles 9 of the African Charter and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).”
Sethibe has therefore applied to court so that it can declare the said section of the penal code vague, that it offends against the right to freedom of expression and that it is unconstitutional among other wrongs.
Sethibe was arrested in July last year after publicizing news regarding the way police handled a suspected ritual murder case of a six-year- old Tlotso Karema from Lobatse, a town in the Southern District of the country.
The particular case of “false news” is before a different court while the alleged ritual murder is said to be still under investigations with one suspect in police custody.
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