AFRICANGLOBE – Botswana and the United States exchanged angry outbursts yesterday following the recent arrest of a newspaper editor. This was after the US condemned the government of Botswana over the arrest of the Sunday Standard editor, Outsa Mokone yesterday. In a Press statement published yesterday on the US Department of State website, the US stated that it is deeply concerned by the arrest of Mokone on charges of sedition relating to an article published by his newspaper, Sunday Standard.
“The United States strongly values freedom of the Press, which is a key component of democratic governance.
“Freedom of expression and media freedom, both of which foster the exchange of ideas and facilitate transparency and accountability, are essential components for democracy.
“Outsa Mokone’s arrest is inconsistent with these fundamental freedoms and at odds with Botswana’s strong tradition of democratic governance,” said deputy department spokesperson, Marie Harf.
Meanwhile, Botswana has noted its dismay with the US State Department Press statement.
“We find it unfortunate to say the least that a foreign government, much less one that professes to be a friend and partner of Botswana, should issue such a statement about an ongoing judicial process in our country, without even having first approached the appropriate authorities for clarification on the matter.
“In this respect, we can confirm that at no point prior to the issuance of the said Press statement did any representative of the US government approach our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, as is the accepted diplomatic norm,” said government spokesperson, Dr Jeff Ramsay.
Ramsay said that the case involving Mokone was still before the courts and will be resolved through the judicial process.
“It would thus be inappropriate for us to comment on the case in the context of sub judice. In this respect, the executive branch of the government of Botswana remains mindful of its responsibility to uphold the rule of law, without fear or favour, in the context of the well-known independence of our judiciary and law enforcement agencies.
“We can only hope that outsiders who profess to be informed will exercise similar restraint and not encourage lawlessness in Botswana,” Ramsay said.
He added: “Further to the above, we would note that as a nation under the rule of law the government of Botswana does not detain anyone indefinitely, much less hold them in occupied portions of third countries in violation of international law, e.g. Guantanamo.”
He continued: “We are, moreover, of the view that if the government of the United States of America is concerned about the detention of journalists, they might be better placed to deal with current allegations of abuse in their own country, such as the recent alleged assault and detention without charge by law enforcement personnel of the Washington Post reporter, Wesley Lowery, while he was attempting to cover the unrest in Ferguson Missouri, subsequent to the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.”
Given the above, Ramsay said the American government might wish to put its own house in order before rushing to hastily comment on the judicial affairs of others.
“It may be noted that the government of Botswana does not normally discuss such matters in the public domain as we recognise that there are appropriate diplomatic channels and protocols for the exchange of views among our international partners,” Ramsay said.
According to the department of state, “the US considers Botswana an excellent partner and an advocate of and model for stability in Africa.
“The bilateral relationship is strong, grounded in a shared commitment to democracy, good governance, and human rights”.