H.E. Mr. DK Kwelagobe
Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration
Private Bag 001
Fax: +267 581 028
Vienna, 28 February 2005
The International Press Institute, the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, has been appalled to learn that Professor Kenneth Good, 72, a political analyst at the University of Botswana for the past 15 years, has been served with a deportation order by the Botswana government, which was instigated by President Festus Mogae.
Since independence Botswana has built up a reputation as one of the few countries in Africa that has largely adhered to democratic principles and that, in the main, has tolerated a free press and freedom of expression. The action against Good appears to be an attempt to prevent him from expressing his critical views about the presidential succession in Botswana. The authorities’ conduct runs counter to the principles contained in the Botswana Constitution and to the government’s commitments to upholding freedom of expression.
IPI’s concern is that in the absence of any reason being advanced for the serving of the deportation order it can only conclude that the government and/or the president is acting in accordance with Section 93 of the Penal Code which cites insulting the president or any member of the National Assembly as a crime.
Good’s lecture was to be given at a public meeting at the university on 23 February and it contained highly critical comments on the conduct of the President and Vice-President Ian Khama.
As the speech appears to have been leaked in advance of the meeting it seems that the deportation order – served on 18 February with its injunction that Good leave the country in two days – was an attempt to prevent him from delivering the lecture.
Section 93 of Botswana’s Penal Code falls into a special category of laws described as “insult laws”, which IPI and many other international and regional media organisations are striving to have repealed throughout the world. Though often intended to protect the dignity of people in high office, in reality they constitute a form of censorship designed to prevent scrutiny of public officials.
IPI’s concern is all the greater because in November 2003 a delegation of media and freedom of expression organisations, including IPI and the World Press Freedom Committee, called on President Mogae to request that Botswana consider removing these laws from its statute books as they can be used to stifle freedom of expression. The delegation was given a lengthy hearing and consideration was given to the points that were raised.
It would appear that the fears expressed at that meeting – that with such legislation on the statute books there is always the temptation to make use of it in an inappropriate manner – have been realised.
IPI appeals to President Mogae and the Botswana government to withdraw the deportation order against Good and to seek any remedies that they believe they are entitled to through the civil courts. Moreover, they should give further consideration to removing this and other legislation that conflict with freedom of expression and freedom of the media.
We thank you for your attention.
Johann P. Fritz