Attacks on the Press 1999: Botswana

As Africa’s oldest multiparty democracy, with a code of human rights enshrined in the constitution, Botswana enjoys a relatively free and open press. Yet problems do exist, including the arbitrary use of the Immigration Act to silence foreign journalists working in the country by declaring them “prohibited immigrants.”

One of the most contentious issues this year was the influx of thousands of refugees from the Caprivi Strip area of northern Namibia. For six months starting in October 1998, at least 2,500 Namibians crossed the border into Botswana, fleeing strife between the Namibian government and the secessionist Caprivi Liberation Movement.

Several Namibian reporters on assignment in Botswana were detained and interrogated by local police for their coverage of this issue. When the journalists tried to interview Namibian refugees or dissidents (some of them charged with bringing arms and ammunition into Botswana), police apparently accused them of harassing the refugees and questioned them about the political and military situation in Caprivi.