The Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) has noted without shock nor surprise the arrest of the Editor of the Sunday Standard, Mr Outsa Mokone. This country has slid into a completely strange and terrifying space. Batswana should brave for more of these kind of events in the lead up to Elections. This is just a tip of the iceberg. We will be given a stronger dose of injustice and assault on civil liberties if by mistake the BDP retains state power.
The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) government under President Ian Khama is becoming more and more desperate as we approach the Elections. We however have to appreciate that the BDP as a party has always been very hostile towards the private press. The only difference is that the current one behaves in a macho style and lacks tact.
The National Security Act, DCEC Act and Media Practitioners Act were introduced by the BDP under different presidents. These laws are anti-press freedom. It is the very same BDP that has failed to put in place the Freedom of Information Act. The government under President Ian Khama has been vocal in criticising some countries for not adhering to democratic principles yet it has plagiarised their laws and behaves no differently from them. It still retains state media which it abuses left, right and center.
Stories on BDP rallies and government activities which are meant to buy votes are given more space and time in the state media. Reporters in the state media who are perceived to be too independent are harassed and transferred to other government departments. The aim of the current government is ensure that those who remain in newsrooms are cheerleaders and are no different from bootlicking poets who are paraded at Kgotla meetings. We should not forget what the BDP has done in the past; declaring some journalists PI. It is the very same BDP that withdrew adverts from the Midweek Sun/Guardian group of newspapers because of the stories they carried.
This BDP government that we have currently is much more fierce and is fighting everyone. The shebeens, the bars, the workers, the students, the businesspeople not aligned to it, the foreigners, the media etc. The list is long. There is a dastard plot against civil liberties by the government of the day. Our People live in fear and speak in hushed tones. Some have ran away from this country while others continue to lose their lives in mysterious circumstances. Our activists and party officials are subjected to attacks week in week out and their houses are broken into. No one apologises nor cares about the attacks on the UDC members.
As Machiavelli said, the freedom and consequently the greatness of a state depend on the liberty of its citizens. He warns further that any State is vulnerable to the ambizione (ambition) of the great men who would always be on the lookout to increase their power over the small fry.
Surely like other progressive formations in the country, the private media is out to stop this. It has therefore been declared an enemy of the sate. If you exercise your right to speak out against excesses in this country you do so at your own peril.
The October 24th Elections afford us such an opportunity to put right what is definitely wrong. We need to engage the enemies of Democracy. This is the opportunity for those who love their country and want to salvage it from the current mess. We should vote for the UDC and bring about a change of government. Lets embrace change. If we fail then we will live to regret.
Arrests of journalists should be an aberration of our societal conduct. It’s a disgrace to our nation. The arrest of Outsa Mokone and his being charged with Sedition for his publication's writing that the President was involved in an accident is meant to intimidate the private media. It seeks to send a chilling effect and silence those who write what the powers that be do not like. We urge reporters to "write what they like" and not what the powers that be like. You owe it to the nation. Those who are unhappy with what journalists write should approach the Press Council of Botswana.
The President as the head of State should apologise to Outsa Mokone and the Sunday Standard for the harrassment they were subjected to by the state machinery. He should further apologise to Edgar Ntsimane who has sought assylum in South Africa and guarantee his safety. The President should note that if he does not reign in the security agencies that are now threatening and instilling fear in the People that they are meant to protect, they will become too powerful for him to control. If he does not act then it will mean that he is condoning this behaviour and should be held responsible.