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President withdraws suit against newspaper

(MISA/IFEX) - President Ian Khama of Botswana has abandoned plans to sue the "Sunday Standard" newspaper for defamation. A statement released by his office on 12 June 2009 read, "Following serious reflection, His Excellency the President has acceded to the appeal by the HLCC (High Level Consultative Council) and has, in the interests of the nation, decided to abandon his intention to sue the newspaper".

The President used the opportunity to deny allegations that he had knowledge of the shooting to death of a suspected criminal by security agents in Gaborone. Khama sued the newspaper for publishing a story that he knew and had been to the crime scene after the shooting of John Kalafatis. "His Excellency would like to assure the nation that contrary to the defamatory allegations made in these articles, he (the President) is not in any way associated with the death of John Kalafatis," reads the statement.

The withdrawal was also televised by the Director of Information and Broadcasting Mogomotsi Kaboyamodimo on 12 June. Meanwhile, the managing editor of "Sunday Standard" newspaper, Outsa Mokoni, is reported to have accepted the President's move. "We have instructed our lawyers to withdraw plans for the counter-claim," Mr Mokone was quoted in the media.

MISA Botswana released a statement welcoming the move and encouraged the use of the Press Council of Botswana when there are contentions. The chairperson of MISA Botswana, Laona Segaetsho stated:

"At MISA Botswana we do not promote resolution of disputes with the media through the no-holds-barred and potentially expensive route of the courts. Rather we prefer conciliatory dialogue which may be followed by an adjudication process in the event that dialogue did not produce mutually acceptable and satisfactory results."

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