Botswana's Law Society has come out in support of the media in voicing concerns at the Media Practitioners Act, and this is to be strongly welcomed, writes Mmegi in an editorial. Lawyers are supposed to highlight injustice when they see it.
After being pulverised into submission by a government hell-bent on silencing the media, we thought we were whispering in the dark. The Botswana media has fought relentlessly to stop Parliament from passing what is clearly a draconian law. The one party controlled parliament moved ahead to pass the draconian bill into law in the midst of murmurings from a fractious civil society.
After the President signed the bill into law, it looked like the media was going to be delivered to the guillotine by bloodthirsty hounds. Except for the litigation mounted by the media to fight the unjust law, there has been very little support coming from the wider civil society. But during the past weekend, the media was given a shot in the arm.
At its annual general meeting in Francistown, the Botswana Law Society (LSB) took a bold and principled stance that the Media Practitioners Act is fraught with problems. In its resolutions, the law society significantly recognised that the law was drafted with the deliberate exclusion of the very people it purports to serve – media practitioners.
We have always maintained that it was disingenuous of the government to claim by word of mouth that it wanted to protect our interests while indeed it did everything possible to exclude us from a process purportedly meant for our benefit. These lawyers are not playing to the gallery, as some might think; nay, they are prompted by a collective sense of justice, as they are expected to.
As enlightened members of society, we expect lawyers to raise their voice in protest whenever they see signs of injustice and to seek to restrain the excesses of those in political power. We are thankful for their principled support and we want to encourage them to use the vocation of law for the ends of justice.
We are particularly elated that the law society will not be sending a representative to serve in the tainted institutions created by this ill-conceived law. We are happy that the lawyers are not prepared to mortgage their souls to any seal even if it may bear the authority of government.
During this critical period, in which values like freedom of expression and the rule of law are under threat, the lawyers body has shown that it can be trusted to play a vanguard role. This was an apt and upright conclusion of their deliberations that must prepare us all for the challenges ahead.