Botswana Govt makes U-Turn On Phone-Tapping Bill After Media Outrage


The government of Botswana has amended a proposed surveillance law which triggered widespread protests from domestic and regional media organizations. The amendments reinstate judicial oversight over surveillance, interceptions and seizures and criminalize abuse of the government’s surveillance powers. News of the amendments came after a coalition of organizations representing journalists across Southern Africa met in the capital, Gaborone, at the invitation of the Botswana Editors’ Forum. The journalists said the law would have threatened the work of journalists and freedom of expression.

Botswana’s government removed controversial clauses in the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Bill, presented to parliament last month. The initial bill allowed investigators to bug communication devices and gave state agents immunity from prosecution.

In that version of the bill, there was no oversight body and investigating officers were also allowed to assume fake identities.

But on Friday, the government introduced a revised bill to parliament that will now make it an offense to tap conversations. An oversight body will be established under the control of the minister.