The Office of Botswana President Lieutenant-General Seretse Khama Ian Khama said the law would “take its course” against the individual or persons behind the circulation of a photoshopped image widely interpreted as depicting a naked Khama standing in front of Parliament on the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence.
The country will mark its 50th independence anniversary from Britain, dubbed ‘BOT50’ on September 30. Debates around the image, which has been circulating on social media for nearly a week, have widely read it as a satirical depiction of the crop of political leadership as the country turns 50.
In a statement, Khama’s office said it had noted “with concern and disappointment the circulation, through social media, of a photoshopped image of the President, which is by any standard offensive and derogatory in nature”.
“The laws and norms governing publication of offensive and libellous and/or maliciously false content on social media platforms are no different from that of any other media. In this respect, we are aware and concerned about the wider trend of publishing offensive material through social media,” read part of the statement.
The statement said the country had sufficient laws to govern the use and abuse of social and warned that they would be used to protect the presidency and the society as a whole.
The Office welcomed the widespread condemnation of the image by individuals “across society” as a demonstration that the country was united “in its diversity” with regards to upholding basic norms of human dignity.
However, Gaborone-based constitutional lawyer Mboki Chilisa told the local daily Mmegi that there was nothing illegal or unconstitutional with the image as the constitution of the country guaranteed protection to both popular and unpopular forms of public expression.
“The exercise of free expression can be extremely painful and extremely unpopular. It is when it is most painful and unpopular that it deserves protection. There is greater good in protecting unpopular, disrespectful and painful speech than in seeking to punish it,” Chilisa reportedly said.
He said in legal terms, such works of expression would fall into the category of parody or satire but was quick to point out that neither crossed the legal line. Chilisa concluded that the image could also be interpreted as protected political speech and there were no reasonable grounds for it to be interpreted as factual.
– African News Agency (ANA)