He has been arrested and charged for exposing corruption in Botswana before. He says the state targeted him unfairly for simply doing his work. Just like in many developing countries in Africa, press freedom in the southern African country has faced massive challenges over the last few years. Presshub Africa talks to Sonny Serite, an investigative journalist in Botswana.
Tell me, Sonny. What drove you into investigative journalism?
I hate corruption! Africa and the world would be better placed for everyone, minus corruption. It is what has dragged us back and watered down the gains we have made over the years since we gained independence. And because everyone has a role to play, I decided to venture into investigative journalism and push for accountability in my little way. Journalism remains a powerful tool that can improve this course!
What do you consider the biggest, most impactful story you’ve ever covered?
In February 2008, I went undercover and exposed the human rights abuse of illegal immigrants in my country by police officers. I exposed how the officers took advantage of foreign nationals through bribery and sexual exploitation. I engaged decoys to catch these officers red-handed. The story made considerable discussion in my country, and I was happy to have started such a meaningful conversation that every other journalist feared to touch.
What worries you most as an investigative journalist?
My security! Beyond being a journalist, you are a human being! You have to remain vigilant always!
What makes an excellent investigative journalist?
Courage and passion! You have to exhibit bravery and tell that story objectively and without fear! If we all remain silent, then who will?
What needs to be done to open up the media landscape in Botswana and Africa?
In Botswana, our Parliament must adopt the Freedom of Information Act-this is long overdue! It will not only guarantee journalists a safe environment to report in but also will advance our democracy in a big way. The African continent has come of age, and the role played by the fourth estate must continue to be supported by all governments!
How do you feed your mind?
I love reading books and watching current affairs news on TV. There is an extraordinary power that comes from reading-makes you a better person. Being a newsman has shaped me into a critical news consumer.
What is that one book that every journalist needs to read, and why?
Oh! That has to be All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. If you haven’t read this, please start looking for it. I consider the duo the best journalists the world has ever produced. It provides an in-depth look into the 1972 break-in at the Watergate Office Building and the political scandal that followed the Washington Post. It’s a must-read for any journalist who aspires to be counted among the best in the world.
What’s most misunderstood about Botswana by the outside world?
Our conservation story. The outside world has always portrayed Botswana negatively, especially on the question of containing the number of elephants. Tremendous efforts are being taken, and the world needs to know that Botswana has concrete strategies to take care of its flora and fauna.
Do you ever take your work home with you?
Yes-quite often. I work from home most of the time.
The world is still battling a pandemic. What one lesson must African nations pick from the fight against COVID-19?
Health care is paramount and must never be traded for anything! I remember you couldn’t travel outside your country during the Covid lockdown. Many countries in Africa suffered a great deal. The lesson most countries learned is that they must always be ready and fix their problems.
Finally, if you had a dinner table and had to invite three African Presidents, who would they be?
Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Hage Geingob of Namibia, and my head of state, Mokgweetsi Masisi
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