The Botswana National Front (BNF) strongly condemns the continued and sustained harassment of journalists and other media workers who are alleged to be critical of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) led government. Since assumption to Head of State in 2008, President Ian Khama’s government has demonstrated serious intolerance and disdain to the private media. It first started with withdrawal of advertisements to the media by the government departments and other public-owned companies. There were also isolated cases of intimidation to the media workers and a boycott to the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Botswana) activities like annual awards. The President then hurriedly signed the Media Practitioners Act despite its unpopular provisions and strong opposition from the public. As if this was not enough damage to the media fraternity, the BDP-led government came again with guns blazing and used its numerical strength in Parliament to shoot down a privately sponsored Freedom of Information Bill by the then Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central, who is also Botswana Congress Party President, Cde Dumelang Saleshando.
The Botswana Constitution falls short of protecting its citizens but gives unmitigated powers to the President, including colonial inherited powers of sedition, which were recently used to jail and prosecute the Sunday Standard editor, Outsa Mokone. Despite some of these compromising aspects of the constitution, its Section 12, provides citizens with freedom of expression. Vision 2016 also called for a democratic, just, and caring nation as well as the enactment of Freedom of Information Act. Of late, we have seen journalists harassed by the state and dragged before the courts of law. The list of persecuted and prosecuted journalists is unending; Edgar Tsimane, Outsa Mokone, Oteng Chilume, Kanani Kaombona, Sonny Serite, Innocent Selatlhwa, Lawrence Seretse, Richard Richardson, Keikantse Shumba and many others. The sum effect of this BDP government led media onslaught is to intimidate, silence and muzzle the media practitioners so that they live in fear and don’t report the BDP government’s corruption, misrule, poor governance and so on. This is why the state media, which has since relocated to the Office of the President, has become a BDP propaganda machine. Freedom of the press must be respected and we call upon BOMAWU, MISA, Editors Forum to report this matter to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), etc. The BNF will support initiatives by the media fraternity which seek to restore the right to expression.
The Botswana National Front calls upon the Botswana Media and Allied Workers Union (BOMAWU) to challenge these abuses and anti media tactics by the government. The BNF is a workers organisation and condemns all these media attacks and calls upon its members across the country to rise against this tyranny. It is clear that the BDP and its government have declared war against the media practitioners and trade unions in Botswana. The duo takes a lot of pride in destroying careers and businesses of those they see as anti-government. We therefore call upon the Gabz fm management to unconditionally reinstate journalists Reginald Richardson and Keikantse Shumba and to stop harassing and intimidating journalists. It is clear from the media reports that the BDP influenced the suspension of the journalists through their complaint letter following Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s audio leak recruitment campaigns. Most private media houses do not enjoy their editorial independence anymore as they fear the BDP led government. Media houses (and Journalists) are not responsible for the BDP loss of the popular vote as this has been dropping (popular vote) since the second general elections in 1969, especially after the formation of the BNF and its participation in the elections. This was before the formation of these media houses. The records are there and this is not journalists’ fault, but poor BDP policies and the raging corruption, misrule, unemployment, etc. The BDP therefore should not be trusted anymore, and the Umbrella for Democratic Change is the only alternative in 2019.
BNF Publicity Secretary