Mmegi Blogs :: Killing of private media intensifies
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Friday 21 September 2018, 15:09 pm.
Killing of private media intensifies

The Constitution of the Republic of Botswana guarantees Freedom of Expression at Section 12. Implied in the provision of the freedom to hold opinions without encumbrance. The freedom of the media is also inferred in this provision as it is not explicitly stated.
By Dithapelo Keorapetse Fri 11 Nov 2016, 15:25 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Killing of private media intensifies

However, what the Constitution gives with one hand takes back with the other at 12(2); it provides for a long list of conditions under which Freedom of Expression can be limited. National security, public order, morality and many other conditions are stated under 12(2) to be legitimate reasons for limiting these freedoms.

The media in Botswana has faced numerous challenges from when it set up in the 1980s. A plethora of legislation exists which limit Freedom of Expression and the media. In terms of the Penal Code, a publication can be prohibited and police officers can close down a newspaper outlet. Whilst the law hasn’t been used much, it remains an option for the government to utilise when they so wish.

The Penal Code provides for crimes such as Sedition, Subversion, Treason and Criminal Defamation which may and have been used against journalists. Foreign journalist, including editors, resident in the country have been declared persona non grata; Mxolisi Mgashe, John Mukela and Roderick Mukumbira among others.

Currently the ruling party uses BTV like their own television station. BTV is part of the state media along with Radio Botswana 1 and 2, Daily News, Kutlwano and BW Government website and Facebook page. The state media is firmly controlled with no independence in respect of editorial policy. The ruling party and government propaganda are spread as news for Batswana to consume. Journalistic ethos like the right of reply are trampled upon with impunity at the mass media complex.

Some senior reporters have been transferred from the state mass media to other government departments for daring to be proper journalists. The Deputy Permanent Secretary is in charge of the state media, which is a department in the Office of the President and is the chief editor and at times reads the news on both radio and TV.

What’s happening at the mass media complex is obnoxiously obscene. Opposition parties activities are seldom covered by BTV and if their news items are aired, they are seriously watered down to a point of distortion. This is not an assumption as there’s confirmation from the state media journalists that they are under siege.

The President and his Ministers and senior officials appear with monotonous regularity on BTV and are featured on the Daily News daily. Anything remotely associated with the President is aired by BTV. His extended family and their activities such as charities etcetera enjoy extensive coverage. This practice is angering Batswana, many have lost interest in these news outlets. Political magazine


programmes which featured all parties have been stopped.

Now that the ruling party monopolises the state media, they want to silence the private media. First they imposed a de facto advertising ban on the private press, clearly against an order of the High Court more than a decade ago. Second, journalists have been charged with sedition, possession of stolen information and other flimsy charges. They have also been threatened with violence. Some are on exile.

The three only private radio stations are in trouble. The Yarona FM news team have been warned to desist from broadcasting anything that may be perceived as anti-government or ruling party. Some reporters at the station have been either fired or suspended or warned. Journalist at the station live in fear.

Reginald Tiro Richardson has been arguably the most sought after Radio personality in the country; his Gabz FM morning show attracted many listeners.

He is a fearless radio presenter who is never euphemistic and speaks truth to power. The journalist has worked for both BTV and eTV now eNCA in South Africa. He and producer Keikantse Shumba have been suspended by the station. The duo and others in their team have done very well during the 2014 general election campaign debates. The state has been very clear that it detests Reggie, the ruling party guys hate his guts and this is only because he does his job well.

The suspension is a clear case of stifling media freedoms. The owners of these radio stations need advertising from both government and the private sector. In this country, the private sector is inextricably linked with the government, it is actually dependent on it. Moreover, the state is a regulator and can grant or deny or revoke a broadcasting license. That is the worst fear for some of these stations. The owners are under pressure for license renewals and advertising which is bringing income.

They are willing to self-censor or censor their journalists. They are willing to throw them under the bus if need be. These radios which have now become better and reliable sources of information and platforms for debates and interactions are being clandestinely fettered by the state.

Richardson and Shumba have done nothing wrong, they must be reinstated. Parliament must get serious about protecting the rights of the media and journalists. MPs should speak out against these heinous crimes against democracy whereby there’s an attempt to only air or publish one view, the ruling party and or government view.

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