Local media organisations have slammed a decision by the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to go ahead with sedition charges against Sunday Standard Editor Outsa Mokone. The DPP on Thursday morning indicated that it would press sedition charges against Mokone.
State Prosecutor, Bathusi Brown – who was standing in for the substantive prosecutor – Wesson Manchwe, told Gaborone Chief Magistrate Faith Ngandu that they would go ahead with criminal charges against the Sunday Standard and its editor..
The decision by the DPP comes three months after the Court of Appeal (CoA) refused to address Mokone’s application challenging the constitutionality of the sedition charge. The Court of Appeal declined to make a ruling on the constitutionality of sedition saying the lower court’s case against Mokone was likely to be dropped because it had prescribed.
The thinking in the media and legal circles was that the DPP would withdraw the sedition charges against Mokone. However, the DPP argues that the Court of Appeal has not made a pronouncement that the sedition charges be withdrawn. Following a debate between the prosecutor and the defence attorney Karabo Masuku from Bayford’s and Associates on the position of the court of Appeal regarding the charge, the two sides agreed that the case be adjourned to 17th April 2018 on which date the substantive prosecutor will give the court a progress report and confirm if the DPP is going ahead with the sedition charges against Mokone.
The sedition case arises out of a newspaper report published in 2014 that former President Ian Khama (president then) was involved in a car accident while driving alone at night, a report which has since been denied by the president’s office.
The media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Botswana Chapter on Friday issued a statement that, “the delay earlier this year to proceed with the matter was laudable, if probably rooted in sloth, and should have been followed with moves to repeal sedition and similar laws that impede the democratic process.
“The astonishing expression of intent to reinstate the charges this week was improbable because it flies in the face of progress in the course of democracy.
“While the delay that led to the matter being disposed of was a vindication of journalism as a vital tool of democracy, reinstatement is vindictive and smacks of a government implacable, vengeful and spiteful in the extreme.
“This is not the means by which any government should want to relate with citizens in the world in the 21st Century.
“”Needless to say, MISA Botswana urges a repeal of all rancorous laws (or some sections thereof) from our statute books, among them; Penal Code, National Security Act, Cyber Crime and Computer Related Crimes Act, Protected Areas and Places Act, DCEC Act, Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, Trade Unions and Employers Organisations Act.
“This is certainly the means by which Botswana can stand firmly and proudly in the comity of progressive nations, and certainly the means by which President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s administration should want to earn the confidence of Batswana, ”, states the MISA Press release. The MISA position was supported by the Editors Forum.