Mmegi Online :: Etcetera II
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Last Updated
Wednesday 22 November 2017, 18:39 pm.
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Etcetera II

NO BID, NO CHANGE
By SANDY GRANT (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Etcetera II








Unusually, there were three separate statements about Mmegi last Friday and one on the Guardian.Two of the statements appeared in Mmegi itself, one being a paid advert in which the Chairman of the Mmegi Publishing Trust, Howard K. Sikgwele, refuted recent reports and rumours that the magnate Sayed Jamali had bought it out, and offered assurances that steps are being taken to guarantee the company's stability, prosperity and growth.

In the same issue, the editorial flatly denied that the Trust had ever been up for sale or would be in future.It reminded readers that it is the biggest media company in the country, owning Mmegi, The Monitor, the Guardian and the Mid-Week Sun, that it takes its responsibilities seriously. It referred to its special role in the economy and in defending the defenceless, in propagating a more equitable society and 'if needs be, stand against any threat to that vision'. Fair enough. More or less.But then came two statements by Jeff Ramsay on behalf of the Office of the President. The first routinely corrected a news report which had appeared in the Guardian.The second statement refuted Mmegi's Friday front page story but then continued to offer, in sharp contrast to its editorial, a devastating, generalised critique of the newspaper itself.

Over many years of noting the government's rejection and/or correction of reported stories, I have no recollection of any previous statement which has been so disparaging, so condemning, so contemptuous.The final sentence of its statement read, 'Even by the abysmal standards of make believe we have too often come to associate with the Mmegi brand in recent years, today's front page in our view stands as a new low in its record of empty reporting.'Unquote. When I first considered these two contrasting statements I felt, optimistically, that a window, perhaps small, might have been opened by the takeover affair and that, given this unusual opportunity, we, the stakeholders, and concerned members of the public, would be remiss if we did not seize our opportunity to comment.

We may, however, react to the government statement in different ways. We may personalise it, maintain that it is exaggerated and insist that it represents yet another threat to Mmegi's stated vision against which it must stand fast.Alternatively we can take it seriously, accept the criticism as justified and use the opportunity

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to try and get the Mmegi Trust to rectify past failings and to uplift standards in all its newspapers.But when reviewing this situation, we have to remind ourselves of the many years during which the government has repeatedly expressed its exasperation with the failings of the private press, and its previous inability to get this press to effect any kind of improvement. We should also bear in mind that it is not only the government which is disappointed by the private press.

There are probably thousands of individuals, almost certainly including some in the private press itself, who share its opinion and deplore the poor quality material that is regularly published, the lack of proper standards, the clumsy reporting, the disregard of ethics and the preoccupation with speculative sensationalism.Evidently Mmegi does not view the situation in this way because its editorial excludes specific mention of ethics or standards.
Nor, during this extended period, has the private press indicated that it has taken seriously such widely held views and was making every effort to uplift its standards. Instead, it holds fast to its corner fighting off all opposition.But for how long can this go on? And in whose interests? The government's denunciation of Mmegi did seem to me at first to offer a window, a last chance to effect needed change.

My second thought was that far from providing a window, it may in fact be a final statement from the government indicating that the window, previously open, is now closed and that it intends to use cash to solve its problem.Can it have been an accident that the news of the supposed take over was broken by The Patriot newspaper? Would it be over the top to assume, given his remarkably successful track record, that Seyed Jamali  is a generous supporter of the BDP and that he could have been seen by the government as a suitable lead figure to effect a takeover?

Perhaps there never was such a bid. Perhaps there was a P5.3 million bid which was rejected. Perhaps the Mmegi Trust will never be bought out by anyone for five, ten million or even fifteen million pula. But are we really to believe that after such a major flutter everything will continue to be exactly the same as it was before?

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