Deputy Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson, U.S. Department of State
The United States is deeply concerned by the arrest of newspaper editor Outsa Mokone by the Government of Botswana on charges of sedition relating to an article published by his newspaper The 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.
Government of Botswana response to US State Department Press Statement on Mr. Mokone
The Government of Botswana notes with dismay a press statement attributed to Ms. Marie Harf, Deputy Department Spokesperson U.S. State Department, expressing concern about the arrest of Mr. Outsa Mokone.
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 Cooperation, as is the accepted diplomatic norm.
We further note that the case involving Mr. Mokone is 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.
That Botswana’s staunch adherence to the rule of law is widely recognised as reflected in our position in the latest, 2014, World Justice Project Rule of Law Index where we are currently ranked 25th in the world, just below the Americans who are themselves only at number 20.
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.
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 Mr. 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.
It is also well known that the Missouri incident fits patterns of documented abuse, as is reflected by various additional sources, e.g. the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African American Descent, which has reported evidence to the UN Human Rights Council, of a 2012 survey that at least 136 unarmed African Americans were gunned down by police, security guards and/or self-appointed vigilantes in the United States of America in a single year.
Given the above, 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.