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Prominent businessman and politician harasses journalist over article

(MISA/IFEX) - On December 10, 2007, a prominent businessman and ruling Botswana Democratic Party councillor, Robert Muzila, is alleged to have verbally harassed "Mmegi" newspaper journalist Oarabile Mosikare over the telephone. Mosikare has since lodged a harassment complaint against Muzila with the Francistown Central Police station.

During the same telephone conversation Muzila is also said to have accused Mosikare of writing articles that "belittle and insult his person".

"He was referring to an article I wrote about a pending divorce case against him filed by his wife at the High Court. He accused me of falling in love with his name to the extent of writing those insulting articles about him in 'Mmegi' newspaper", said Mosikare.

He told MISA Botswana that he tried to advise Muzila to talk to his supervisors. Mosikare also says Muzila accused him of involvement in politics.

"Mr Muzila took issue with the article I wrote recently, headlined 'What is it with the Robert Ms', that appeared in 'Mmegi' of November 23, 2007", Mosikare said. Apparently Muzila took particular offence at being described as "pint-sized" and being compared to one Robert Masitara.

Mosikare says Muzila finally slammed down the phone after telling him that everything that he wrote about him was actually directed at the complainant's father. This is regarded as an insult in Botswana culture.

The police station commander, Moikuedi Mphathi, confirmed that the case has been lodged with his office. He said they would contact both parties to see a way forward.

"It will depend on whether the complainant still desires to continue with the case. Such cases are usually complicated because they do not have witnesses since they take place through telephone," said Mphathi.
MISA Botswana has established that such altercations are common. Sometimes they arise out of ignorance of the available procedures through which aggrieved people can seek arbitration. It is for this reason that MISA Botswana advises readers to take their complaints to the Press Council of Botswana whenever they feel wronged by the media. Targeting media practitioners for a published work is considered harassment.

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