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DCEC, media clash over Corruption Law

Publishing Date : 18 May, 2015


DCEC Director propose to edit investigative stories

Media practitioners and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) are at loggerheads over section 44 of the DCEC Act. The friction gained traction following the search of News Company Botswana premises and seizure of a computer by DCEC operatives.

The media is against the said section citing that it infringes on media freedom while on the other hand DCEC is resolute on implementing the law because it is critical to ensuring sound investigation. The DCEC is accusing the media of leaking critical information to parties that may interfere with investigations. In essence the DCEC is saying the media is therefore jeopardizing their investigations.

While DCEC gets immense powers from the Corruption and Economic Crime Act (CECA) in the line of investigating corruption, media practitioners on the other hand insist that section 12 of the constitution provides them with sufficient authority to carry parallel investigations.

DCEC Director General, Rose Seretse acceded in her address to the media on Friday that in the recent past DCEC has had a standoff with the media regarding some reports that they (DCEC) felt compromised some of their investigations. “Section 44 of the Corruption on Economic Crime Act (CECA) prohibits any indulgence of information which is still under DCEC investigation,” she maintained.

She stated that an investigation that is disclosed prematurely is compromised because even the suspect at that stage may not even be aware that they are being investigated and once alerted it is very obvious that they will destroy the very vital evidence that we need.”

According to Seretse there is need for a sober assessment of the whole issue surrounding this matter and other similar matters that may arise in the future, to create a conducive environment whereby the DCEC can be given enough space to carry out its investigations on reports of alleged corruption without those investigations being compromised by unauthorized and/or premature disclosure of information.

DCEC Director General suggested that she could assist in editing news investigative pieces so that she may withhold the story if she sees that it may jeorpadise their investigations. Infact she admitted that section 44 of CECA give them powers as they prohibit divulging information to matters that are under their investigations.

The section 44 (of CECA) states that, “any person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, discloses to any person who is subject of any investigation in respect of any offence alleged or suspected to have been committed by him under this Act the fact that he is subject to such investigations or any details of such investigation, or publishes or discloses to any person either the identity of any person who is subject of such investigation or any details of such investigation, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to a fine not exceeding P2000.00 or both.”

In reference to the Act, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has already instituted a court case, as a friend of the court, in the substantive application brought by the Attorney General against Tsodilo Services (pty) Ltd (Sunday Standard and its editor Outsa Mokone). MISA observes that section 44 of DCEC Act has limitations placed on the freedom of expression and therefore it is unconstitutional as it is not in the public interest.

MISA stated in the papers that the CECA is against the spirit of section 12 of the constitution which clearly states that, “except with his or her consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his or her freedom of expression, that is to say, freedom to hold opinion without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference, (whether the communication be to the public generally or to any person or class of persons) and freedom from interference with his or her correspondence.”

Recently the media, Botswana Gazette in particular, clashed with DCEC authorities over a story concerning corruption allegations of one Jerry Chitube in relation to P150 million worth of alleged oil deals and smuggling of diamonds. According to Seretse, the matter was still under investigation by officers at the corruption busting agency. She said she was shocked to see the story published in the media. Seretse stated on the sidelines of the press conference to the WeekendPost that “the story has jeorpadised their investigation and therefore negatively affected the case.”



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