In Ecology lingo, a certain big-eared fox is used to tell whether there is ecological balance in a certain environment. The big-eared fox is in Botswana used as the emblem of the Wildlife Department. The absence of the fox in a wildlife environment is indicative of an imbalance that needs urgent attention.
Freedom of expression, or freedom of speech, in a democracy, like the big-eared fox, tells us the heartbeat of our democracy which we all should jealously guard. The absence or lack of instruments of freedom of expression of divergent views should remind us all that our democracy is on a sickbed and requires urgent surgical attention.
One of those freedoms of expression tools is the independent media. Botswana has reached a time when the growth of the independent media is actively under threat. In a small economy such as Botswana where every sector depends on government business for sustenance, here government has taken a conscious decision to starve the independent media of advertising, a tact deliberately designed to close down critical media houses.
When a democratically elected government wages war on another democratic institution, especially the institution that promotes freedom of thought in a democratic society, then we start to wonder what kind of spirit is being desired to prevail in Botswana.
As President Ian Khama runs his last mile as the President of Botswana, he should ask himself what he has done to nurture one of the 4 D’s in his roadmap, the D, for Democracy, where the independent media is the cornerstone as platform for reviewing, analysing, and debating national issues including new legislations, government policies and implementations, corruptions and most importantly expression of independent thought without fear.
We advise, the only plausible reaction to strong media criticism is to react to the issues addressed in a sober and responsive way that reflects a government and leadership sensitive to the pleas and cries of its nation, rather than sleeping on the problems, and vowing to go after the independent media.
These are the dark days; never before has such an important arm of democracy been so suppressed with determination.
However it is not too late, the undemocratic policies aimed at suppressing the freedom of thought can still be undone. When the media flourishes, it is democracy that is the winner; it is the people of Botswana and the name of Botswana that is praised as the shining example of democracy.