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State media taking sides in BDP feud - Ndlovu

Staff Writer
The state owned Botswana Television (Btv) and Radio Botswana (RB) are seemingly taking sides in the ongoing Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wrangles.

Since the saga unfolded last week, both Btv and Radio Botswana have only been reporting the views of the BDP central committee, which is dominated by the A-faction.

On Wednesday Btv news bulletin, a member of the central committee, Tebelelo Seretse, was interviewed in the studio about the party position.  The following morning she was doing the same interview on RB.

On Monday, Btv aired a statement, which was delivered late, warning members of the Barata-Phathi to surrender their BDP membership cards within 48 hours. 

On the eve of the Barata-Phathi Saturday meeting, Btv aired another statement from the BDP leadership, which was warning that the convention would be "illegal".  Both Btv and Radio Botswana have never bothered to get a comment from Barata-Phathi. 

Thapelo Ndlovu, the director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Botswana Chapter, said yesterday that the developments on the state media are disturbing.  He said it is clear that journalists who are working for the two institutions do no longer about basic journalism principle of getting the other side of the story.

"The state media has lost respect.  They are showing people that they could be partisan and are doing it with impunity.  Even people have become aware that they will not get balanced news from the state media," said Ndlovu. 

He warns the state media that being a propaganda machinery does not last for ever as history is replete with such cases. 

He said the control of the state media in Botswana is worse than in Zimbabwe.  Ndlovu calls on the panelists to start boycotting discussions on the state media because it is proving to be partisan.

He said what is happening to the Barata-Phathi faction is what the opposition has always been complaining about as regards the state media. 

Ndlovu said they condemn the practice that has been adopted by the state

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media in the strongest terms. 
He also called the National Broadcasting Board to comment regarding the manner in which the BDP is controlling the state media.

The publicity secretary of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Dumelang Saleshando said what both Radio Botswana and Btv are doing is consistent with their conduct. 

He said the BDP is abusing the state media.   The BCP official said the basic principle of required a balanced report is no ignored.  He said this is why the state media is only talking to one side in the BDP saga.  He said BDP leaders seem not to be aware that there is a difference between the party and the government.  He added that this is why BDP executive secretary Dr Comma Serema is based at the party headquarters and not Government Enclave. But he said when it is convenient to the party they want to use government resources.

Saleshando said in the past they had lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman about the state media bias. However, he said, the Ombudsman was not willing to investigate the claims.  He said the Ombudsman wanted the BCP to conduct the investigations by themselves.

He is not surprised why the Ombudsman was unwilling to cooperate.  He said this is because President Ian Khama is instilling fear in people, especially the civil servants.  "They don't want to lose their jobs."

Saleshando said there is so much intimidation that even soldiers have been reporting to the police that they have been tortured by Directorate of Intelligence Security (DIS) agents.

Botswana National Front (BNF) spokesman Moeti Mohwasa said the state media is being used as a propaganda tool by the dominant faction.  He accused the BDP of using state resources to further its interests.

The general manager for radio, Lesole Obonye and Btv boss, Molefe Sejoe declined to comment.



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