A military police officer is seen in Gaborone, Botswana, on April 3, 2020. Botswana intelligence agents recently detained journalists Ryder Gabathuse and Innocent Selatlhwa. (Monirul Bhuiyan/AFP)

Botswana intelligence agents detain 2 journalists overnight

Lusaka, July 21, 2023 – In response to the detention on Thursday, July 20, of Botswana journalists Ryder Gabathuse and Innocent Selatlhwa by agents of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement of condemnation:

“The brazen detentions of Botswanan journalists Ryder Gabathuse and Innocent Selatlhwa and the seizure of their electronic devices must be thoroughly repudiated by President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s government, and the intelligence agents responsible must be held to account,” said CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, Angela Quintal, in New York. “It is particularly concerning that the journalists have not received their electronic devices back from authorities, given Botswana’s abuse of digital forensic tools that compromise journalists’ sources.”

Authorities arrested Selatlhwa, a senior reporter for the Mmegi newspaper, without presenting a warrant, according to news reports and statements by local press freedom groups.

Following Selatlhwa’s detention, DISS officers raided Mmegi’s office in the capital city of Gaborone on Thursday evening and detained Gabathuse, the newspaper’s editor. According to a tweet by the outlet, one of the officers said “I am a warrant myself” when asked for a warrant during the raid.

Both journalists were released Friday morning without charge, but authorities kept custody of mobile phones, iPads, and laptop computers seized during their arrests, according to news reports and Gabathuse, who spoke to CPJ after his release.

CPJ has previously documented how Botswana has used Israeli Cellebrite technology to extract and analyze thousands of messages, call logs, emails, and web browsing history from phones and other devices confiscated from journalists.

CPJ called and texted DISS spokesperson Edward Robert for comment but did not immediately receive any reply.