Events of this week, unfolding just three days after the media commemorated the World Press Freedom day themed “let journalism thrive: Towards better reporting, Gender Equality and Media Safety in the digital Age” have been an eye opener. This theme basically cast a net on the principles of this noble profession with a punctuation of the challenges journalists are facing today.
The ignorance and arrogance displayed by the DCEC agents when arresting the journalists on Thursday clearly showed that they were on one mission: to arrest at all costs lawful or otherwise. They even said so themselves. The arrest comes eight months after the detention of the editor of the Sunday Standard, under sedition charges, causing a journalist with the newspaper to flee to South Africa, saying that he fears for his life. We shudder to imagine the treatment these 'graft busters' mete out to ordinary citizens who cannot afford the protection of an attorney. But why are surprised! A telling picture is where all the big fish netted by DCEC always get away scot free while only those involved in petty crimes are convicted.
Lest we forget, in the midst of all this harassment and intimidation calculated to silence the press, government has once again ordered an advertising ban in the private press to deprive them of the much needed revenue to survive. But we are not for once fooled by the antics of the graft busters. The hostility towards the press is easy to understand. In most instances, the press provides a platform for spreading ideas. Some of these ideas can be deemed as subversive or against the existing political order. The more the press interacts with the masses unrestrained, the harder it gets to control the population. Hence the intimidation to force the media to cow into submission, and censor its reporting of news.
Listening to attorney Joao Salbany trying to reason with DCEC agents about the illegality of the warrant they brought to arrest the journalists,one would have assumed that common sense should have dictated that they consult their legal advisors to verify the facts concerning the legality of their warrant of arrest. But there they were saying they will use whatever means to effect the arrest and threatened anyone who stood in their way. It would have cost them nothing to retrace their steps to court to get the right warrant, but no they were the law. But how come in this day and age security agents have such a tenuous grasp of the laws from which they draw authority? Isn't it these days they are now better trained? Could it be that the DCEC was formed largely as a repressive agency against natives. On would expect that after nearly 50 years of independence and much restructuring of different sectors of the administration a higher order of service to the ideal of democracy and justice than dictatorship would be achieved.
The paranoia that engulfs current rulers is shocking and only serves to reverse the gains this country Botswana has gained over the years as a beacon of democracy and peace. For such leaders to even arrogantly brag about their disdain for the private press is destructive and fuels abuse of the Rule of Law. What with government coming up with ridiculous legislation designed to undermine the independence and intergrity of the press under the pretext of regulation. To top it all, these leaders promote these barbaric and backward laws by ecnouraging government officials to sue media houses using taxpayers' money. All this, at a time when the country is reeling from high unemployment exarcebated by clueless leaders coming up with mickey mouse policies.
Continued attempts by government machinery to stifle the press should be a wake up call for journalists to come together and work as a unit in executing their mandate, and holding government organs and their leadership to account, because they are fighting one cause for a common goal. It is only when acting in concert that journalists can effectively parry attempts by the current administration to silence the press.
The truth shall prevail.