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Botswanan weekly's independence threatened by printer's refusal to publish

UPDATE: Newspaper finding alternative printer, back on newsstands (MISA, 29 January 2013)

(MISA/IFEX) - 25 January 2013 - A weekly broadsheet, The Patriot on Sunday, has failed to publish its current edition after their printers, Printing and Publishing Company Botswana (PPCB) refused to print the 20–26 January 2013 edition.

It would appear that the printers were reacting to a story that was due to be published by the newspaper about a police raid on a chicken farm owned by Satar Dada, the Treasurer-General of the ruling party, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Dada reportedly owns part of PPCB.

The newspaper's editor, Bapasi Mphusu, has confirmed the development with the Botswana Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Botswana). Mphusu says they were “reconsidering” their relationship with PPCB in the aftermath of the incident.

Chairperson of the Press Council of Botswana, Tshireletso Motlogelwa has expressed concern at how the editorial independence of The Patriot on Sunday has been threatened. Motlogelwa further said it was “unfortunate” that the press was finding it difficult to report on certain individuals and enterprises because of the economic power they hold against the media.

Meanwhile, a PPCB spokesperson has cited a clause in their contract with the newspapers that protects the printing firm from any wrongdoing should the publication be found to be reporting falsehoods or facing any legal liabilities.

MISA-Botswana has also expressed concern at how editorial independence of the media can continue to be threatened if there is no diversity. Botswana currently has only one printing firm, PPCB, which is capable of printing broadsheets like The Patriot on Sunday.

“We also believe that duties of printing a newspaper should never interfere with the editorial independence of a media house. That an established newspaper with an expectant readership failed to appear on the streets is a denial of freedom of expression and access to information. We, therefore, condemn the actions of the printers,” MISA-Botswana said.

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