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HANG ‘EM HIGH! II


The propaganda has taken its toll, however. Romney knew that many people who would otherwise support capital punishment now hesitate for fear it may lead to an awful miscarriage of justice. Hence his call for "a standard of proof that is incontrovertible" – an uncompromising benchmark endorsed by members of the panel he set up. That is a worthy goal, but it cannot be an absolute criterion. No worthwhile human endeavor is utterly foolproof. Hospitals would have to shut down their operating rooms if surgeons had to guarantee their infallibility. Even at hospitals as renowned as the Brigham, patients sometimes die on the operating table because of blunders or inadvertence.

Is that an argument for abolishing surgery? Should air travel be banned because innocent passengers may lose their lives in crashes? Should the pharmaceutical industry be shut down because the wrong drug or dosage, mistakenly taken or prescribed, can kill?

To make the perfect the enemy of the good is irrational and counterproductive. The benefits of surgery, air travel, and prescription drugs are enormous – far too valuable to give up even though we know that people will die because of the fallibility of doctors and pilots and people who handle medicine. The same is true of capital punishment: The benefits of a legal system in which judges and juries have the option of sentencing the cruelest or coldest murderers to death far outweigh the potential risk of executing an innocent person.

And there is this added reassurance: The risk of an erroneous execution is infinitesimal, and getting smaller all the time. And the benefits? First and foremost, the death penalty makes it possible for justice to be done to those who commit the worst of all crimes. The execution of a murderer sends a powerful moral message: that the innocent life he took was so precious, and the crime he committed so horrific, that he forfeits his own right to remain alive.

When a vicious killer is sent to the electric chair or strapped onto a gurney for a lethal injection, or hung on the gallows, society is condemning his crime with a seriousness and intensity that no other punishment achieves. By contrast, a society that sentences killers to nothing worse than prison – no matter how depraved the killing or how innocent the victim – is a society that doesn't really think murder is so terrible. But there is more to executions than justice for the dead.

There is also protection for the living. Though Romney didn't say so when he introduced his new commission, the real threat to innocent life is not the availability of the death penalty, but the absence of one. For every time a murderer is executed, innocent lives are saved.

The foes of capital punishment have denied for years that putting murderers to death has a deterrent effect on other potential killers. That has always flown in the face of common sense and history – after all, wherever murder is made punishable by death, murder rates generally decline. But it also flies in the face of a lengthening shelf of research that confirms the death penalty's deterrent effect.

Deterrence means to punish somebody as an example and to create fear in other people for the punishment. The death penalty is one of those extreme punishments that would create fear in the mind of any sane person. Ernest van den Haag, in his article "On Deterrence and the Death Penalty" mentions, "One abstains from dangerous acts because of vague, inchoate, habitual and, above all, preconscious fears" (193). Everybody fears death, even animals.

Most criminals would think twice if they knew their own lives were at stake. Although there is no clear statistical evidence that death penalty deters crime, we have to agree that most of us fear death. Suppose there is no death penalty in a state and life imprisonment without parole is the maximum punishment. What is stopping a prisoner who is facing a life imprisonment without parole to commit another murder in the prison? There is no stopping these inmates from committing further crimes within the prison, if they are already facing the maximum punishment. Anti-death penalty advocates argue that imprisonment itself could deter criminals. They believe that we do not need to go to the extreme route of killing criminals to deter crime. Hugo Adam Bedau in his article, "Capital Punishment and Social Defense" mentions, "Crimes can be deterred only by making would-be criminals frightened of being arrested, convicted, and punished for crimes…" (301). Unfortunately, the ever-increasing population in prisons proves otherwise. Somehow, just imprisonment is not enough for some people to stop them from committing a crime. The number of criminals is increasing every year.


Anti-death penalty advocates believe that the death penalty is irreversible and may become a cause of irreversible mistakes. Once a person has been sentenced to death and thus death penalty practiced, there is nothing that can be done to undo the punishment if the accused turns out to be innocent. I agree that the death penalty is irreversible, but the chance of making a mistake in the death penalty is extremely low. Capital punishment is considered an extreme punishment and the judicial system takes a lot of care in arriving at that decision. There are several safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty. For example, "Capital punishment may be imposed only when guilt is determined by clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts", "Anyone sentenced to death shall receive the right to appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction", etc.

There are several other privileges provided to the convicted that assure that the death penalty is given to the rightly accused person. According to Haag, "Trials are more likely to be fair when life is at stake – the death penalty is probably less often unjustly inflicted than others" (192).


Even if we assume that there are chances that an innocent person is executed, it is the problem with the trial, not the punishment. "It is not the penalty – whether death or prison – which is unjust when inflicted on the innocent, but its imposition on the innocent", writes Haag (192). When an innocent person is sentenced to death, it is not the fault of the punishment itself, but the trial that led to this punishment. There have been cases in which a person has been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, and then after several years, it was revealed that the person was innocent. No court or compensation in this world can return the horrifying years spent in the prison by that innocent person.

If we stop giving life imprisonment sentences to criminals on this ground, then probably most of the criminals would be walking around free on the streets within ten to fifteen years. The fear and trust that the society has in the judicial system would be lost. The judicial system has minimized the chances of mistakes. It is almost impossible to sentence a wrongly accused person. Then, why cause the death of several innocent victims just on the bleak assumption that some day we might make a mistake?


Some people might think that capital punishment is inhuman and barbarous, but, as I've already said before, ask those people who have lost their loved ones or whose lives have been tied to a hospital bed because of some barbarous person. I am sure they would be very unhappy to see the person who ruined their lives just getting a few years of imprisonment or mere rehabilitation. Consider the example of the rapist and killer given above. Now, suppose the woman raped was your wife, sister, or daughter. How would you feel knowing that the person who ruined your family is calmly enjoying the benefits of an asylum and an air-conditioned room, funded by you the taxpayer?

Anti-death penalty supporters believe that death penalty is barbarous. Well! So is murder. Capital punishment to me is not revenge. Rather, it is a matter of putting an end to a life that has no value for other human lives. Sentencing a murderer to death is in fact a favor to the society. Despite the moral arguments concerning the inhumane treatment of the criminal, we return to the "nature" of the crime committed. Can society place an unequal weight on the tragically lost lives of murder victims and the criminal? This is not an exam question in a college philosophy course but a moral conundrum at the core of perhaps the most intriguing issue facing our society today. Punishment is meted out because of the nature of the crime, devoid of any reference to the social identity of the victim.

I believe that if one cannot value the life of another human being, then one's own life has no value. If you see no value in a life, why should yours be deemed valuable? â€¨â€¨Capital punishment is just and serves a definite purpose of reducing crime as well as bringing justice to the criminals and innocent. In order to serve its purpose, it must be adjusted and made more effective and efficient, but not abolished. The justice system has changed dramatically in over the years in order to make sure that the rightly accused is brought to justice. I believe that capital punishment should not be abolished as it ensures the safety of the society and brings justice to those who have suffered. As I sign off, let me drop this on you: God Himself believes in the death penalty. I'll let you figure it out. In the meantime, hang 'em high!

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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021

OSCAR MOTSUMI

This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi: Email:oscar.motsumi@gmail.com

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021

MELANIE WALKER

The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

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