Our hero for 2014 is you the Botswana newspaper reader. You defied the global trend to ensure that the Sunday Standard and other local titles show up at the newsstands every week. While newspaper publishers throughout the world were having sleepless nights over dwindling circulation figures, local newspaper vendors were struggling to keep up with growing queues of readers. Sunday Standard saw its circulation grow by more than 100% in a very hostile business and occupational environment.
Journalists had to brave everyday demons hiding behind every corner before they could have their story ready for print. Bullying, harassment, imprisonment and fear for their lives ÔÇô these are the real monsters that crouched beneath the surface of their lives and stalked newspaper pages in 2014. Credit, however should go to you the reader who fought the media corner with unprecedented conviction and gave journalists the courage to carry on just when their nerves were about to give up. The P10 .00 that you parted with every Sunday was not only a vote of confidence but also a reassuring pat on the shoulder.
You demonstrated beyond doubt that you were committed to putting your money where your mouth is. We in the media are aware that this was not an easy decision. Newspaper readers were caught between the propaganda churned by a hostile government that used all in its power to discredit the media on the one hand, and a media that has almost sold the pass on being a credible defender of its social role on the other hand.
You however threw your hat into the ring on the side of an independent media to preserve the freedoms and rights slowly usurped by those in power. Your support gave journalists the courage to face the bullying culture that the government enclave and its security apparatus have used to keep the media in check. You helped win the battle, but the war is still raging. The government has now resorted to a PR strategy of cosying up some media houses that it hopes to sway. In the new divide a rule strategy to divide the media into friends and foes, government plans to advertise and work with some sections of the media and isolate others. Government hopes to create alliances, isolate the media that has what it perceives as an adversarial editorial content and shift the debate.
The new government strategy is informed by the false notion that the media pays lip service to its role as the voice of the voiceless and is controlled by greedy men and women who would think nothing of selling their souls for a few pieces of silver. The media is however united in honouring our commitment to you. All the gains you and us have made together in 2014 will not be sacrificed on the altar of profiteering.