Botswana has fallen from the pin-up poster nation of democracy to the international bogey-man of press freedom violations ÔÇô it emerged this week. The world press groups that wrote to Queen Elizabeth this week urging him not to sign a Royal Charter to govern regulation of Britain’s press used the press freedom situation in Botswana as a bogeyman to scare the English royalty. The letter warns that the “toxic” charter, backed by all three major political parties, would have a “chilling” effect on journalism in the UK ÔÇô and be used as an excuse by dictators worldwide for muzzling the press in their own nations. “The actions of Britain’s Parliament will be used as an excuse by those who want to muzzle the press and stifle the free flow of information ÔÇô and there are many governments who would love to do so. And it is your name, Your Majesty, that will regrettably be taken in vain. “If it is good enough for the Queen, it is good enough for us.”
Already we have seen the chill winds of what is happening in the UK in South Africa, Botswana and Sri Lanka. Many more will follow”, the letter reads in part. The letter further states that, if the charter is approved by the Privy Council and signed by Her Majesty on October 30, Britain will not be able to take a lead in arguing for human rights at next month’s Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka. The letter comes as a poll suggests that almost seven in 10 people (68%) believe politicians would exploit the proposed framework of press regulation to damp down criticisms of their own actions and restrict freedom of speech.
Only 13% of those questioned by pollsters Survation for the Free Speech Network agreed that the Royal Charter would result in a “more vibrant and independent press” while 62% said the new system should NOT give politicians the final say on regulation. The proposed charter would create a recognition panel to oversee a new independent press self-regulation system. Any newspapers which failed to sign up to regulators endorsed by the panel would leave themselves open to huge “exemplary” damages in court cases.