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Politics and the Media Practitioners (Repeal) Bill

The Media Practitioners (Repeal) Bill, 2019, which was published on the 13th December 2019 in the Government Gazette, is set to be defeated for the second time in Parliament.

Why was the repeal Bill rejected in 2019 and why is it likely to be defeated again? The draconian law has been in the public discourse for at least twelve years. It would be recalled that a repeal Bill was Gazetted on the 14th December 2018 and was debated by Parliament on April 2019, a year after President Mokgweetsi Masisi ascended to the high office of President.

When the Bill which culminated into the Act was first presented in parliament in 2008, it was outrightly rejected by stakeholders such as the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), especially the Botswana Chapter.

The Law Society of Botswana, publishers, journalists, editors and other pressure groups rejected the Bill then. Their positions haven’t changed. Political parties in the opposition also dismissed the law as oppressive and inimical to democracy; it became one of the campaign issues of 2009 general elections.

Member of Parliament Nonofo Molefhi, Minister in the Presidency, as he then was, led the ruling party’s onslaught to defeat the Private Members repeal Bill in 2019. He reasoned in parliament then that government had started a process in 2015 for the amendment to the media law in question so as to improve it – to take into consideration some of the views from their engagement with private practitioners where they can create a self-regulatory arrangement.

The minister stated that at the end they would be able to create an apex organisation that would be the Media Ombudsman. This line of argument was raised before by Ministers in the Presidency when answering parliamentary questions regarding the law.

Following the defeat of the Bill in April 2019, the ruling party posted on their Facebook page on the 17th September 2019, a month before General Elections that “If it’s true and in the public’s interest, the media should run the story without fear of repercussions. The BDP firmly believes that the truth will set Botswana free.

This is why we will repeal the Media Practitioners Act of 2008 that has seen journalists silenced and punished for doing their jobs. We need our media to keep on reporting in the public’s best interests”. As stated, barely five months before, the ruling party had rejected the Bill to repeal the Media Practitioners Act.

MISA Botswana also expressed disappointment a few days after the rejection. It stated in a statement that “MISA is particularly surprised and concerned by this turn of events following indications by President Mokgweetsi Masisi that his administration was willing to look into the Bill among many other issues- towards improving government relations with the private media, particularly promoting media freedom.

We don’t believe that there is any reasonable justification whatsoever for the failure by the majority to support the motion that called upon the repeal of the draconian Media Practitioners Act. The failure to pass the motion shows a lack of commitment for the support of media freedom. The effect of the failure by Parliament to repeal the MPA means that a dark and ominous cloud in the form of the MPA continues to hang over the heads of media practitioners.”

On the 3rd of May 2020, World Press Freedom Day, President Masisi’s message was posted on BWGovernment Facebook page and it read in part “His Excellency wishes to assure the media of his Government’s commitment to repeal the Media Practitioners Act and allow for self-regulation by the media.

The Government also remains committed to promulgating the Freedom of Information Act and promises that it will be brought before Parliament soon.” This was five months after the Private Member Gazetted the Bill to repeal the bad law.

Why did pro-democracy forces oppose this law in the first place? Civil society organisations, including the media fraternity, have been and are still of the opinion that this law contradicts Section 12 of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression – which also implies freedom of the press. They contended that it is an archaic law with no place in a democratic society. Such laws, they contended were common in anti-democratic systems such as military dictatorships, one party states and other authoritarian systems.

It was argued that the Media Practitioners Act, 2008, criminalizes journalism, restricts media work and intimidates journalists. It promotes self-censorship by publishers, journalists and editors. The law establishes a Press Council which will purportedly act as a self-regulating body that will monitor the activities of the press and ensure the maintenance of high professional standards, and to provide for the registration and accreditation of media practitioners.

The law criminalizes journalistic activities in that it provides for stiffer penalties including hefty fines and jail terms against media practitioners. As said above, such kind of laws were common in one-party states and outright dictatorships; they were cited as illustrations of a deficit of democracy in such polities.

Since independence, freedom of information (the free access of the public to information contained in government records) and freedom of speech (liberty to express opinions and ideas without hindrance and without fear of punishment) have been restricted and controlled by Botswana’s strong authoritarian state in a manner that gravely undermines and negates the principles of transparency and accountability.

The Media Practitioners Act was therefore seen as an attempt to cement the authoritarian character of the state. Democracy presupposes that rulers should be accountable to the ruled; they should be obliged to justify their actions to the ruled. Political leaders should answer to the public on the disposal of their powers and duties, act upon criticisms or demands made of them, and accept responsibility for failures, blunders, incompetence or deceit. This is only achievable if there is free media which is able to work without fear or any policy or legislative impediments.

So, the object to the repeal Bill, currently under consideration, is to rescind the Media Practitioners Act (Cap. 61:09) which was passed by Parliament on the 11th day of December 2008, almost 12 years ago, assented to on the 22nd December 2008 and commenced on the 31st December 2008.

This Act was however never implemented mainly because key stakeholders refuse to participate yet their participation is mandatory in the Act. The majority of aforementioned stakeholders subscribe to the international standard of self-regulation, media freedom and are of the view that it is a draconian and regressive law.

Responding to the proposal to repeal the law, The Minister in the Presidency agreed that the law must be repealed and confirmed his government’s desire to do so. However, he rejected the attempt to repeal the law by an MP. The contradiction was outrageous to many, especially the media fraternity. Why communicate the intention to repeal and reject such gestures?

The answer can be found in the tradition set by the ruling party of how it deals with proposals from the opposition. So many Bills, motions, policy proposals and other suggestion were first rejected by the ruling party when presented by the opposition, only to be brought back by the ruling party. The reasons for the rejection by the Minister were frivolous and vexatious.

He reasoned that the Bill can’t be repealed without anything in its place. He failed dismally to explain what is in ‘place’ since by his own admission the law has been inoperable for twelve years. He couldn’t point to the void that would be created. He simply needed reasons to reject the Bill that his party and his president made clear that they will repeal.

The Media law was enacted under the pretext of providing for self-regulation but fall short of the key principles of self-regulation and therefore undermines media freedoms. Parliament and the government must accept the reality that it’s been impossible to enforce and implement the Act for 12 years.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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