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Gov't ropes in media in alcohol war

Staff Writer
In a desperate effort to win the liquor war, the Office of the President (OP) has reportedly ordered the state media to run stories and programmes emphasising the negative effects of alcohol.

The directive orders the state electronic and print media to depict alcohol as socially unacceptable and destructive to society.

Reliable sources say the anti-alcohol directive was issued this week. Government attempts to introduce a punitive 70 percent levy on the sale of alcohol to control excessive drinking has been hobbled after a strong resistance from brewers and other stakeholders in the industry. Even after the levy was reduced to 30 percent, the government found no respite after a court stopped the introduction of the tax pending the outcome of a case filed by stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi has claimed ignorance of the directive. "There is no directive on that. I would have known. Whoever told you that is a liar," she said.

The director of broadcasting services, Mogomotsi Kaboyamodimo, said that he was not aware of the directive and requested to give more information later. At the time of going for press, he was unavailable as he was said to be in a meeting at the headquarters of the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology.  This is not the first time that government would be using the media to shore up its position in a civil dispute. When government took a position that it dod not recognise Robert Mugabe as president of Zimbabwe, the authorities made sure that the state media acted accordingly. It was reported that the state media was instructed to expose the goings-on in Zimbabwe to the international community.

The directive was said to have been issued after a cabinet meeting that resolved that the Zimbabwe crisis should be highlighted. A high-ranking government

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official confirmed that a directive had been issued instructing them to report extensively on the Zimbabwean crisis.

A television programme dubbed Zimbabwe: Voices From Within was crafted and aired on the state-owned Botswana television.

The programme dissected and debated the Zimbabwean political crisis at length, with the aid of images exposing the political violence in that country. Botswana television news covered the Zimbabwe crisis regularly. It was the same story on state radio and print media.

The scenario showed a government committed to exposing, at length, the political rot in Zimbabwe, using its powerful media.  This time the focus seems to have turned to the alcohol war. Yesterday, the state-owned Botswana Daily News published a table listing 22 developed countries that have imposed alcohol tax. The use of the table comes across as a rallying tool to justify Botswana government's case against alcohol.

Below the table there is a statement that reads in part: "In the United States of America, all fifty states and the District of Columbia also collect their own revenue on alcohol in addition to the federal tax. thirty states and the District of Columbia impose alcohol specific taxes of varying rates.

In addition, 18 US states are alcohol control states, meaning the retail sale of alcohol and thus its retail price is under direct state control (i.e the private sector is barred from running bottle stores). The price of alcohol in control states is generally higher than other states," the statement said. This is a trend that is expected to continue in state media outlets as government engages in a fight with the alcohol industry.



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