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Released on: July 9, 2024

Allegations of signal jamming at Kgotla raises concerns in Botswana

The Campaign for Free Expression has received reports from journalists in Botswana alleging signal jamming which disrupted communication during a Kgotla (traditional meeting) last Saturday, 29 June 2024, in Serowe. This sparked concerns about how far the country’s Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DISS) will go to stifle freedom of expression and access to information in the name of safeguarding state security.

Botswana’s democracy is a blend of its traditional and modern systems. One of the ways in which the government tries to incorporate people’s views in its decision-making is through the traditional Kgotla system. The Kgotla is a Tswana traditional and respected place of assembly where the chief and the community meet to discuss issues concerning village administration and to resolve disputes, among other things.

According to CFE’s source, the signal jamming affected journalists’ coverage of the meeting. The Midweek Sun reported that its livestream of the event was compromised due to the signal jamming. When contacted for comment, DISS spokesperson, Edward Robert, said that the DISS “prioritises national security” in all its operations. “We place the country before all of us,” he said.

The use of phone jammers has legal implications. It is an offence under the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) Act. The incident has sparked a debate about the balance between national security and the right to free communication and access to information.

Allegations of signal jamming at this traditional meeting and the DISS’s comments are concerning to CFE as they reflect a downward trend in the country’s state of freedom of expression and access to information. At the recent Freedom of Expression Summit in Botswana there were numerous complaints from journalists and civil society organisations about the growing phenomenon of DISS surveillance.

Contact: Hanifa Manda

CFE Project Manager

hanifa@freeexpression.org.za

+27 871 633568

 

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