THE Southern African Editors’ Forum (SAEF) and the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) have condemned the persecution of journalists in Botswana, saying the developments left a lot to be desired for a country that claimed to be highly democratised.
Botswana recently arrested and detained Outsa Mokone, the editor of Sunday Standard, and threatened senior reporter of the paper Edgar Tsimane.
The threats forced Tsimane to seek asylum in South Africa.
The paper had published a story entitled President hit in car accident while driving alone at night.
In a statement yesterday, Sanef said the onslaught on media freedom in Botswana was an unfortunate development for a country that was widely perceived as a beacon of democracy.
“We are shocked at the abuse of public servants, public institutions and the courts to settle what in all purposes is a personal matter for President Ian Khama,” Sanef said in a statement.
“It is shocking that the Head of State of a country which has for a long time been a shining example of democracy could choose such a drastic course of action against a media house, effectively criminalising media work. A charge of sedition or treason is too serious for media work and cannot be heard of in a country claiming to champion and protect democratic credentials.”
Sanef added: “At the heart of democracy is the protection of the rights of people. This is the people’s right to freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to enjoy all human rights. In this case, the newspaper’s right to publish without fear or favour was trampled on; Mokone’s right to legal representation during his 23 hours’ detention was denied.
Since Khama took over in 2008, he introduced the draconian Media Practitioners Act of 2008, and also another law which made it possible that government officials use taxpayers’ money sue the media.
“These acts rob Botswana of any moral authority to talk and agitate for democratic reforms in any other jurisdiction. As SAEF and Sanef, we urge the Botswana government to respect and protect media freedom.
“President Khama must prevail upon his security apparatus to desist from spying on, bullying and intimidating the Press.”
Khama had been on record condemning President Robert Mugabe’s governance over abuse of human rights.