We condemn backward and barbaric incidents of police brutality meted out on journalists from the private media on Wednesday 18 April 2018 at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA). That this happened on a day when the whole nation was in a celebratory mood, welcoming our heroes who had made us proud with sterling performances at the 2018 Commonweatlh Games in Gold Coast Australia, makes the whole incident even more painful to farthom.
The world over security personnel work with media to designate a suitable spot for journalists (reporters and photographers) if there are any security concerns. Where there are none or minimal like on Wednesday the media is allowed all access, to do their job freely without hindrance. For some strange reasons, only known to Botswana Police force, independent journalists were not allowed on the tarmac to perform their duties. We do not for once buy this nonsensical attempt at justification that the police were ordered to allow access only for state journalists. Who gave the order? The silence at Government enclave raises eyebrows, and we are tempted to believe that indeed some overzealous bootlicker within the new administration may have given the instruction trying to please the masters. As it turned out the dumb instruction spoiled the celebrations and stole the shine from our heroes, as the media now had to contend with a recalcitrant police force for the better part of the morning.
This is unacceptable in a peaceful country like Botswana and a fledgling democracy where all arms of Government appreciate the importance of the media. No matter what angle we look at it, the harassment of private journalists should never be condoned under any circumstances. The lame national security excuse proffered is a non-issue because state media was allowed access to the airport. There is no excuse for that behaviour by the police, if anything it is failure on their part to make arrangements that suit all, particularly the media.
BOMAWU condemns harassment by the police
The Botswana Media and Allied Workers Union (BOMAWU) learnt with shock an incident that happened at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA) on the morning of Wednesday 18 April 2018 in which private media practitioners were harassed by the Botswana Police officers and other security agents.
The incident which happened during the arrival of the national heroes/heroines who had travelled to represent the country at the just concluded Commonwealth Games in Australia was such a shame as the Police shockingly pushed away photojournalists who were assigned to cover the event. The insensitive and impolite police officers at Sir Seretse Khama Airport told reporters that they had strict orders that only state media should be allowed in. We strongly condemn both the police and the authorities who gave such orders.
The union also wishes to note that history of the relationship between photo journalists and the police, precisely those at the Airport is replete with heavy-handedness and cover-up on the part of the security agents. As a trade union for media workers in Botswana which advocates for ethical adherence and professionalism in the media industry as well as advancement of media freedom and freedom of expression in general, BOMAWU is utterly disturbed by the Wednesday incident as its violates the very foundation of a free media.
BOMAWU would like to extend its solidarity gesture to the affected comrades and wish to encourage its members to continue with their noble role of informing the members of public on any issue. Comrades should not fear anyone but report fairly and professionally as they have always done.
BOMAWU wish to state that it has been observing disturbing incidents in which journalists are threatened or intimated when they try to do their job as witnessed in an ongoing case in which the editor of Sunday Standard newspaper, Outsa Mokone recently had his sedition charges re-instated while a senior reporter of the same paper has also fled the country in fear of losing his life to the security agents.
As a results, the union also takes this time to remind the powers that be that the guarantors of a free media across the world is well documented through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 19 and progressive constitutions of countries including Botswana.