Wednesday, January 19, 2022

High Court rejects Manual Union request to join Sunday Standard against DCEC

Lobatse High Court judge, Justice Michael on Monday granted Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Botswana) permission to be joined in the proceedings as a friend of court in a case in which the Attorney General filed an urgent application to interdict Sunday Standard Newspaper to publish, distribute or disseminate information, material, excerpts or any contents of docket DOC/IF/2011/01166.

Granting MISA permission to be co- respondents in the case, Justice Leburu said MISA Botswana has amply demonstrated that the germane issues yearning for determination centres around media freedom, particularly the incongruities and inconsistencies, if any, between section 44 of corruption and Economic Crime Act and section 12 of the constitution of Botswana, dealing with disclosure of confidential information to the public.

“The expertise of MISA Botswana on media freedom will greatly assist the court in resolving the attendant issues.┬á The said issues rose in this case falls directly within MISA Botswana’s zone of interest and expertise; hence MISA Botswana is a worthy candidate to be joined in these proceedings as a friend of the court. The application by MISA to be joined as a friend of the court is therefore granted,” Leburu noted.

Dismissing the Unions application to also be joined in the proceedings, Justice Leburu said the objectives and mandate of the unions are predominantly labour issues.

“The submissions by the unions to the effect that any order granted will be ineffective if the union is not joined in the proceedings are therefore misplaced. Whether the trade union has in its possession excerpts of such docket does not instill the union with the necessary legal interest to be joined as a co-respondent,” said Leburu.

Leburu explained that unions have submitted that freedom of expression entails the right to receive information, and therefore union members have a right to receive such information from the docket.

“I entirely embrace the submission that freedom of expression entails the right to receive information, in my ruling that does not mean that any recipient of information has the necessary standing to sue or to be joined in these proceedings. It is only those with direct and substantial interest who ought to be joined as co-respondents,” he explained.

Furthermore Leburu dismissed union attempt to be joined in the proceedings on the grounds that the investigations pertaining to the docket in question have long been concluded. “The attorney general denies such averment. In my view whether investigations are still ongoing or not, does not take the matter to any further. As I have stated above, the crux of the main application is disclosure of confidential information safeguarded by section 44 of the Corruption and Economic Crime Act. Information can still be confidential even if the investigations relating to that information have long been completed. Furthermore the disclosure that is sought to be prevented does not only relate to investigations, it also seeks to protect the identity of informants and whistle blowers and prospective witnesses,” he said.

In his concluding remarks Leburu said, the application by the union to be joined as a co-respondent and as a friend of court is dismissed. “There shall be no order as to costs,” he said.

The union was represented by Mboki Chilisa; MISA Botswana was represented by Tshaimo Rantao while Dick Bayford represented Sunday Standard.

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