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Office of the President (OP)
Pattern of Malicious Personal Attacks Published in the Echo
22/02/12

Pattern of Malicious Personal Attacks Published in the Echo Newspaper
 
With particular reference to the article entitled "Tebogo Masire must stick to soldiering and leave politics to politicians", which appeared in the 16/2/12 edition of your newspaper, the Government of  Botswana wishes to place on record its growing concern about what we perceive to be a persistent pattern of malicious personal attacks on individuals, which are now seemingly being published on a weekly basis in your newspaper.
 
In our view it is especially unfortunate that of late these attacks, which are of an overtly partisan character, have been targeting civil servants, who are of course non-partisan by profession.
 
These articles contain innuendo and insult bordering on libel and even hate speech. We find this emerging pattern of wholesale slander to be socially, if not legally, unacceptable. In this respect, we hereby remind the editor and publishers of the Echo that under the laws of Botswana, as elsewhere in the world, it is they and they alone who must bear ultimate responsibility for the full content of their publication.
 
We note that your newspaper's most recent attack on the Commander of the BDF speaks of him as having made "remarks about democracy in Zimbabwe" and further allegations that, among other things, the Commander is "groveling for contract extension" and "protecting his friends business interests".
 
We frankly know of no basis for any of the above allegations, which are outrageous. In this respect we expect the Echo newspaper to either substantiate the said allegations or make a full apology to the Commander, in accordance with Section 5 of the Botswana Media Code of Ethics, with respect to Correction of Inaccuracy or Distortion, which provides  that:
 
"If a Media Institution discovers that it has published a report containing a significant distortion of the facts, it must publish a correction promptly and with comparable prominence. If a Media Institution discovers that it has published an erroneous report that has caused harm to a person or institution's reputation, it must publish an apology promptly and with due prominence."
 
In addition to the above, we also wish to take this opportunity to condemn the Echo newspaper and its columnist for their further resort to personal insults and innuendo against the Commander, which appears throughout the article. Here too we shall expect nothing less than a full apology within 7 days of the date of this letter.

We end by reminding the Echo and its columnist that while public figures are generally prepared to accept a certain level of public criticism, they too have rights to their privacy and are entitled to take appropriate steps to protect their integrity and reputations.
 


Dr. Jeff Ramsay
Deputy Permanent Secretary
Government Communications

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