BDP condemns violence against journalists

Journalism has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years
Journalism has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wishes to add a voice of condemnation to the reports of harassment and threats of violence against the Business Weekly editor, Tshireletso Motlogelwa.

We have learnt that the journalist was threatened, harassed and his paper’s property was destroyed by a certain UDC activist who also happens to be UDC president, Duma Boko’s confidante. The party has since relayed a message of support to Motlogelwa and the paper.

The BDP recognises that the Fourth Estate is a critical player in our democracy. In this regard, in February 2019, our party president, His Excellency Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi hosted the media for breakfast in an effort to open communication lines and build a rapport between the party, government and the media. He implored the media to exercise caution in their duty and he further emphasised the need for the media to go about their duties fearlessly. On a number of occasions, President Masisi has reminded democrats of the critical role that the media plays in our society. He is of the view that perceived incidents of irresponsible reporting should not make Batswana lose focus of the role that the media plays.

Botswana’s peaceful nature is premised on the old adage “ntwa kgolo ke ya molomo, e seng ya diatla”. We wonder if the actions of the said perpetrator are a reflection of the ideals espoused by the UDC and its leader. The fact that the party, which is always quick to issue statements, has not condemned this violent behaviour raises eyebrows.

One wonders if the party espouses aggression and violence as a principle. Over the weekend, the BNF Women’s League issued a statement calling for the boycott of the Business Weekly and we wonder if the party then resorted to violence after realising that the boycott will not work.

Let us pause and remember many journalists who are imprisoned and who have been killed in the line of duty because they exposed corruption, rot and illegal deals all over the world. All these started with mere harassment and threats and eventually culminated into killings. In 2018 three Russian journalists were killed in the Central African Republic while investigating a Russian private military company. An undercover journalist, Ahmed Hussein-Suale Divela was recently killed in Accra. Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist was brutally murdered in Saudi Arabia last year. In January this year, there were widespread reports of online harassment of female journalists in Kenya and thousands of journalists were threatened and violated while reporting about elections in Nigeria.

We cannot sit back as a nation and watch while the media is being harassed and threatened with violence while in pursuit of their profession. As the Forth Estate the media has a role to play in the promotion of good governance, accountability, freedom and peace.

Resolution 29 of UNESCO’s General Conference of 1997 condemns assassination and any physical violence against journalists as a crime against society since this curtails freedom of expression and as a consequence, the other rights and freedoms set forth in international human rights instruments. The resolution urges that the competent authorities discharge their duty of preventing, investigating and punishing such crimes and remedying their consequences.

We therefore, in pursuit on this Resolution call upon the competent authorities in Botswana to abide by this Resolution and investigate this case and ensure that the perpetrator is brought to justice. This is the only way we can guarantee journalists safety, protection and freedom to do their work.

In 2014, UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova said impunity is poisonous- it leads to self-censorship for fear of reprisal, depriving society of even more sources of significant information. We therefore, call upon the UDC to take action against its member lest it is seen to be championing violence against journalists.

Communications and International Relations Committee

Botswana Democratic Party

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