The launch of the Botswana Media and Allied Workers Union (BOMAWU) is a commendable and long overdue milestone as it comes in just a few weeks before Botswana celebrates its 50th Anniversary.
We welcome progress that has been made by the media in the development of this country. BOMAWU was started by local journalists as an initiative aimed at advocating for the rights of those who work within the media industry.
I have no doubt it will provide a platform to hold cordial discussion on issues that impact on the lives of its members with a view of resolving their issues in a conducive and amicable manner. I take this opportunity to commend the journalists and stakeholders who made this event a success, including the donors. For our part I can assure you that Government shall take up the challenge by meeting with representatives of this union. We may have some differences, but I am confident we will find common ground as well as greater mutual understanding through such an exchange.
Botswana has five founding principles; democracy, development, self-reliance, national unity and social justice. As Batswana we need to jealously guard and uphold these principles as they have assured us of stability, peace as well as freedom of expression and association. This does not preclude your responsibility to also tell us and the world of our shortcomings and failures. When we talk of a dignified life for all this also includes you the members and leaders of BOMAWU. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am reliably informed that BOMAWU has been formed to advocate for the poor working conditions, poor if not pathetic salaries, lack of overtime and working extended hours and the blatant and flagrant abuse of labour laws for those who work in media sectors.
These laws are at your disposal to seek guidance whenever the need arises. You are also free to engage in the political space to advance your interests and agenda.
I implore Union leaders not to forget that a great responsibility has been placed on your shoulders, while you tackle issues of workers’ rights, be alive to the fact that you are doing so from an informed position that all stakeholders however divergent their views that deserve to be given a platform to have their opinions heard, respected and protected.
For your Union to truly gain integrity amongst its members and wider public it must adhere to internationally recognised media standards.
Elsewhere in the world Journalist Unions or Guilds can be found on the frontline of upholding professional standard in terms of accreditation, training and mentoring as
Whereas the first priority of many if not most publishers is bottom line profits, true journalists have a professional interest in preserving professional standards of reporting.
What are these standards? Fortunately there has long existed a general consensus among committed journalists around the world, as reflected in the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Code of Conduct for fair and balanced reporting.
The IFJ Code clearly affirms both the rights and responsibilities of a professional journalist in always seeking the truth, while appropriately respecting the God given dignity of others.
For BOMAWU to prosper in its mission it is my earnest hope that you will, therefore, do the due diligence necessary to join with your comrades elsewhere by becoming a full IFJ member.
As it is Botswana media workers have not had a conduit, much less membership seat at the IFJ for many years now. This has meant that local journalist have not benefited from the Federation’s support and solidarity as well as global accreditation and guidance.
Through outreach to the IFJ and others, BOMAWU can be empowered in its responsibilities to both its members and the wider public by advocating for strengthening of checks and balances within the media industry to ensure proper regulation. Grievances must be addressed and penalties must be meted out to those who continue to abuse the integrity of good journalism through irresponsible reporting.
Director of ceremonies, ladies and gentlemen, permit me to state that this Government continues to be a key stakeholder and a partner of the media industry. Government has embarked on a robust economic programme to stimulate the economy, which can never be achieved without the involvement of media practitioners. I am appealing to all members of the Fourth Estate and all other stakeholders to play your role in the successful implementation of this programme.
Ladies and Gentleman, in conclusion I want to say that it is only through sustained partnerships that involve the members of the media, local community’s business people that Government can truly deliver quality jobs that can significantly impact on the lives of our fellow countrymen. PULA.
This is an abridged speech by VP Masisi at the launch of BOMAWU