Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Macmillan pays heavily for violation of privacy

Botswana’s popular publishing company, Macmillan Botswana, avoided being arraigned before the Lobatse High Court last week by settling out of court, after publishing without consent, the photo of a certain Botsanyang Motswere in a school textbook under a chapter on HIV and AIDS next to a caption that implied she was a patient receiving counseling.

The settlement has been cited as an indication of the refusal by some elements in the media fraternity to recognize the right of individuals to privacy in their daily and professional pursuits.

In that regard, Dikeledi Dingake, Legal Officer at Botswana Network of Ethics and Law on HIV and AIDS (BONELA), said, “For us at BONELA the settlement is a major achievement, and we believe no one has the right to intrude into the privacy of anyone without their express consent.”

However, what is even more important for BONELA, according to Dikeledi, is that no amount of money can measure up to the trauma effected upon those whose privacy is suffered by injurious publications in the name of information sharing.

Information passed to The Telegraph relating to the basis of the dispute, showed that Macmillan has published a photo of Motswere in a religious textbook, titled “Religion for all pupils Book 2”, which was first published in 1999.

Publication was done without client’s knowledge and her consent. The said photo appears on Page 189 of the cited Book, figure 14.5, captioned “For patient receiving Counseling.”

It was upon discovery of the said publication that the complainant then sought legal assistance from BONELA, of which the Human Rights Organization’s Legal Brains, said, “Our client was deeply concerned about the alleged contravention of her rights to consent and privacy, which has affected damages as a result thereof.”

Against that background we were under instruction to proceed to court, but thanks to the Publisher’s early response and cooperation, the matter has come to a close.

The settlement notwithstanding, Macmillan denied any wrong doing, and have claimed that the 35 000 pula paid to the aggrieved was just an ex-gratia payment not admission of guilt as such.

“The said payment is made entirely without prejudice to all of the rights of Macmillan Botswana, all of which are reserved, without admitting any liability of any nature and shall constitute the full and final settlement of all claims of any nature which the “complainant” has or may seek to bring against Macmillan…,” read part of the memorandum of agreement entered into by the parties.
When asked to corroborate on what her company meant by not admitting liability, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Macmillan, Leburu-Sianga, was not keen to exchange on the issue.

“I would rather you talk to BONELA as I believe they are better placed to respond to all the questions you might like to raise on the matter,” she said.

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