MEK Masisi’s new BDP commits to Media Freedom

30 Sep 2019

Kealeboga “Killer Mkhwanazi” Jameson

On 17th September, 06.59 to be precise, HE the President MEK Masisi posts as follows in his Facebook page: “A flourishing democracy like Botswana does not need to silence the media. I believe the media has a vital role to play in building our country to be a model nation, not only in Africa, but in the world”.

He follows up with another post same day, 16.30: “I believe the cornerstone of any democracy is a free media, but sometimes it is hard to balance the government and the media’s interests. Sometimes things end up on the front page that you are proud of and sometimes it brings a chill to your spine. Even though the latter is intimidating at most, the BDP – Tsholetsa Domkrag is committed to the principal of freedom of speech and we fully support free media”.

This is a man on a mission to unlock the Country’s potential.MEK Masisi’s virtuous deeds are recognized by Reporters without Borders in their annual press freedom index, entitled “A new president more sympathetic to press freedom?”. They highlight: “Under the previous President, Ian Khama, press freedom declined alarmingly, investigative journalists were arrested, a news website was subjected to a massive cyber-attack, and between 2013 and 2018 Botswana fell eight places in the World Press Freedom Index. So hopes have been pinned on his successor, Mokgweetsi Masisi, who has at least given frequent press conferences since taking office in April, unlike Khama, who gave none during his ten years as president”.

Beyond reasonable doubt, the President has brought about a new sense of hope, renewal and revival for Batswana.According to same 2019 annual press freedom Index, Botswana jumped 4 places, ranked 44 out of 180 countries with a score of 25.09 points, up from 48 in 2018. This is a major achievement considering that President MEK Masisi has had to stabilize the Country from the free fall, and thereafter was able to launch an upward trajectory. This is also considering that this feat was achieved after only about a year in office. On the basis of the foregoing, one can positively project that more is still to come and Batswana need to remain focused and give President Masisi all the support and all the backing.

To state without hesitation that ‘more is to come’, is based on the fact that the media has a big role in contributing to the economic and political development of citizens as it “creates a broad range of information and communication to stimulate citizens on the various developmental issues in their country”, according to Lumona Kibore, Secretary General at Social Economic and Governance Promotion Centre (SEGP). He further contends that the Media is an important factor in promoting democracy and the rule of law only if it will be given the opportunity of freedom of expression and to deliver messages to the people without being oppressed or intimidated by the authorities of the respective countries or any entities that have the authority to prevent information from the people. And this is exactly what President MEK Masisi is about.It is through delivering messages without hindrance and intimidation that adds flavor to the media’ critical role in fighting corruption, corruption which has negative and dire impact on economic growth.

Literature is abound regards the importance of controlling corruption to spur sustainable development and how the media can act as a force against corruption.  Corruption stifles economic growth, innovation and sustainable development. Where corruption is widespread, foreign direct investment is discouraged because businesses are reluctant to invest due to distorted competition, high cost of doing business, and significant legal and reputational risks, experts contend. For the past 10 years Botswana’s FDI inflows were marginal and the Country could have done better considering the ‘peace and tranquility’ that prevails.

Since taking office President MEK Masisi is reworking and remodeling major structural policies, to attract FDI including a spirited campaign to deal a hammer blow on corruption.  By committing to the principal of freedom of speech and fully supporting free media, President MEK Masisi is providing assurance to the international community and investors that Botswana is ready and open for business, and that they should come and invest in the Country, where there shall no longer be “distorted competition, high cost of doing business, and significant legal and reputational risks” as a result of corruption. Rick Stapenhurst of the World Bank Institute, in writing about the Media Role in Curbing Corruption, contends that there are two ways by which media can curb corruption; intangible effects and tangible effects.

Intangible effects he avows, can be characterized as those checks on corruption which arise from the broader social climate of enhanced political pluralism, enlivened public debate and a heightened sense of accountability among politicians, public bodies and institutions that are inevitably the by-product of a hard-hitting, independent news media.On the tangible ways in which the media serves as an impediment to corruption, he notes that they can be varied, but the most spectacular among them is when corrupt bureaucrats or public office-holders are impeached, prosecuted or forced to resign after their misdeeds are exposed to public light.

He further points out that there are other less spectacular but, equally important ways, i.e. “Reporting, for example, may prompt public bodies to launch formal investigations into allegations of corruption. Furthermore, news accounts disseminate the findings of public anti-corruption bodies, thus reinforcing the legitimacy of these bodies and reducing the ease with which interested parties who hold power can meddle in their work”.

He notes that when journalism exposes flaws and even corruption within the various bodies of the state (the courts, police and anti-corruption task forces) corruption is put on check.In chatting this path, President MEK Masisi is adopting well tested multi-pronged approaches to growing the economy, that includes attracting FDI, fighting corruption, and obligating to media freedom. In committing to and fully supporting free media, President MEK Masisi is taking a bold and calculated move meant to take Batswana and Botswana out of the doldrums. We aint seen nothing yet – watch this space.Once again, I urge Batswana as I always do, to “vote for the New BDP and its New Leader MEK Masisi, who is on course to transform Botswana from a medium to a high income country; who is on course to create more jobs, especially amongst the youth”.