For many of us in the media, the year ends in the same manner that it started; with state-sponsored hostility is at its highest.
The most recent being an announcement by the state president that his government will consider financing public servants who for whatever reason would want to take the [private] media to court.
Enticing people with public finance so that they can take the media to court is incitement of the first order, especially coming from a head of state who has done nothing despite numerous overtures, including from his own camp to normalize relations with the media.
When we say the President should normalize relations with the media, we should not be misinterpreted as soliciting any kind of friendship much less favours from the president; in fact far from it.
All we are saying is that his bellicose statements against the media which are often interpreted with fervent zeal self-seeking by civil servants trying to curry favour with him do not do much to engender a culture of tolerance upon which any democratic discourse is built on. Appallingly, some of the civil servants goading the presidents on call themselves journalists.
These are the same people who instead of tutoring none-journalists in government on how the media works, they have voluntarily elected to become cheerleaders in government’s onslaught against the private media.
As the media we have always been awake to our differences with President Ian Khama.
We have never for a day mistook him for a paragon or champion of media freedom.
But even then it never occurred to us that for all our differences with him he would one day gladly provide his government as surety in private litigations against us.
While this latest development indeed opens an altogether new ground, it must be put into a greater context: The last five years must go down as the most difficult for Botswana’s media ever.
Insiders tell us that the latest bomb thrown at the private media is a result of what newspapers recently wrote relating to an airfield that the state was building on the president’s private farm.
Personally I do not think that could really be said to be a straw that broke a camel’s back.
Not least because the story was by all accounts true, sincere and honestly sourced.
When this newspaper broke the story, we were ridiculed and cast as liars. Notwithstanding that we spent weeks waiting for Government to answer our set of questions on the matter.
Our storyline was simple: Botswana Defence Force building airfield on Khama’s private land.
Immediately the president’s spin doctors went on a high gear to say the land was publicly owned, before adding a diversionary that the public would be allowed its use. And that all previous presidents had enjoyed the same, which was not only a lie but also an insensitive and reckless insult to former Heads of State.
We are well aware that the promotions season in government is nigh, but to go out of their way to tell lies, not just about the private media but former heads of state so as to attract the goodwill of the appointing authorities , what civil servants in the presidency are doing is without doubt now borders on blasphemy.
As the Sunday Standard we never said the houses at the estate had been built for Khama by the State which is now all that the spin doctors are harping on as they clutch at the straws in their attempt to deflect attention while also covering the many lies they have been hurling at the public on the story.
The Americans have a word for what our government is currently doing; it’s called disinformation.
This is not the first time as Botswana’s media that we have found ourselves against the wall.
There have been many such incidents before. But we survived.
Speaking at a time of deep anxieties for African Americans, Pan Africanist leader Stokely Carmichael reminded his audience of a litany of really horrific things that African Americans have had to go through over the generations, including slavery. He told his followers that they would ultimately survive as they had always done.
“We going to survive, aint no doubt about that in my mind, no doubt at all,” said Carmichael.
That’s pretty how one feels in the face of this unprovoked government onslaught we are made to go through. It is a phase that will certainly pass.
This is the last edition of the Sunday Standard this year.
We hope to see you all in the New Year.
Please enjoy. Do not indulge.
May God bless Botswana.