Outrage as Botswana journalist charged with sedition

Gaborone (Botswana) (AFP) - A Botswana newspaper editor has been charged with sedition after a story claimed the president was involved in a car accident, prompting angry allegations of stifling press freedom Wednesday.

Prominent Sunday Standard editor Outsa Mokone was arrested on Monday over a story alleging Ian Khama had a night-time crash, which resulted in the other driver being given a new Jeep.

A defiant Mokone has since been released, but he vowed to fight the charges.

"I would rather spend 100 years in their prisons rather than be a prisoner of guilty conscious," he said upon his release.

Police raided the offices of Sunday Standard and seized documents and computer equipment.

Mokone's colleague, journalist Edgar Tsimane, reportedly fled to South Africa where he applied for asylum.

The trial is expected to begin in late November, his lawyers said.

Under Botswana's penal code, sedition is defined as incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority.

Journalism groups slammed the decision to charge Mokone.

"We would not want to go the way of other African countries that have become notorious (for) harassing journalists and arresting them willy-nilly," said executive secretary Kagiso Sekokonyane.

Botswana has been in the past hailed as a shining light of African democracy.

But opposition parties and rambunctious allies in the press accuse Khama, a former army general, of becoming increasingly heavy-handed.

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