Mmegi Blogs :: Tsaone’s Case: Where Is Media Unity?
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Saturday 24 August 2019, 11:44 am.
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Tsaone’s Case: Where Is Media Unity?

The year was 2010, when I got tested on my beliefs, having my eyes opened to the fact that at times activism is all about what the activist has to gain.
By Pamela Dube Kelepang Mon 29 Jul 2019, 12:58 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Tsaone’s Case: Where Is Media Unity?








That not all of us are in the cause regardless, but about what one stands to gain.

A year into Ian Khama’s first term, I stood before a conference gathering of the continent’s best known activists in Johannesburg, to share Botswana media’s battle to fight the newly passed Media Practitioners Act.

The Act, hurriedly pushed through Parliament by the then Minister of Communications Science and Technology Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, on December 28, 2008, was going through the motions of implementation. I was on that winter morning, sharing details of the draconian piece of legislation, and seeking support from friends not only in the human rights world, but also donors known for their support of Press Freedom worldwide.

I had addressed such gatherings before, and I could tell as I was on the floor, that something was amiss. At the end of my address, there was a momentary pause, before there was the usual clapping.

Experienced at this game, I knew that I had not lost my audience in the process.  Instead, it was something that I had said that bothered my friends. But I was lost to what, until at tea break time, a human rights activist, and lawyer who had been in and out of President Robert Mugabe’s police cells, approached me and gave me a reality check.

She said my presentation was on point, so much so that it made many uncomfortable. “You see Pam, for some of us, your president is the best thing to have happened to us activists on the continent. In Zimbabwe, he is a hero, who unlike most African presidents, is not afraid to take on Mugabe…”I must have seemed lost to the reasoning, until I was later informed by one of the donor’s representatives that what I shared to the gathering, though not new, was not what most donor countries wanted to hear about Botswana.

Since, I knew, for as long as the world saw Botswana in rose coloured glasses, we are on our own. Yes, we were, for a while.

But we fought our battles against the Khama regime, with some level of unity.

Of course, the struggling civil society, a victim of donor funding freeze from the classification of Botswana as a middle income country on the one hand, and the mother body BOCONGO dancing to the tune of the piper that pays the bill, government, was not as united in the cause for justice as it was in the past. But the media industry, still without the much needed resources, showed some level of unity when called to.

When Reginald Richardson was suspended, for what we believed to be political interference, media activism was revived, with the newly formed Botswana Media and Allied Workers Union (BOMAWU) leading the march against Gabz FM. When Sonny Serite was arrested for

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investigations on the Office of the President, the media workers and sympathisers camped at the Central Police Station to demand his release, risking their freedom in the process. When Outsa Mokone was arrested and charged with sedition, the media fraternity stood in unity, attending the court hearings not just to report but in show of support.

When The Gazette team of Lawrence Seretse, Innocent Selatlhwa, and their lawyer Joao Carlos Salbany were detained by the DCEC, media workers rose in support.

These actions must have said to the country and the world beyond our borders, that when the media is under attack, the media in Botswana move in unionism.

Then Tsaone Basimanebotlhe happened. A few weeks ago, the political reporter of The Monitor and sister publication Mmegi found herself face to face with the feared officers from the Directorate of Intelligence and Security, who had come armed with a warrant to search her house for alleged material (photos) sent to her mobile phone by the former spy chief, Isaac Kgosi.

Without going to the merits of the case, my immediate thoughts were but the story in point cannot have been written by Tsaone, and even if she did, there could be ways to engage Mmegi to access the alleged evidence the State seeks.

Raiding her house? No, this is intimidation of the highest order. It is a clear case of press freedom abuse. Next, without doubt, would be a flood of condemnation from all media institutions, editors, and media houses around. Of course, as it happened many times before, we would be having Tsaone’s colleagues from across the media, toyitoying at the police station, or even petitioning the powers that be. Okay! For hours, there was silence. And when the media institutions finally rose, it was BOMAWU short statement, followed by a drop of reports here and there. To their credit, BLLAHWU and the main opposition the UDC came out strongly condemning the raid.

Where were the Editors’ Forum, the Media Institute of Southern Africa? Yes, more than a week later, the Editors’ Forum issued one.

In the recent past, the matter would have reached the international community through MISA press alerts. Not this time. Watching from the side-lines, one can only reason that the Botswana media is not as united as it was against the Khama regime.

Moreover, the ‘media wars’ is hurting the industry, so much so that a clear case of harassment of a media worker, or media house, is left to the affected to fight alone.

The principle that an attack on one is an attack on all, is lost. It is a case of you are on your own. Just enough to tell the world that there is no problem in Botswana, and if there is, we are on our own.

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