The Vice President and Mahalapye West MP, Mompati Merafhe has said he totally supports government control of the media.
He accused the press of bias during debate on the Media Practitioners' Bill in Parliament yesterday. Merafhe cited a Radio Botswana report yesterday morning which attributed the victory of Mochudi Centre Chiefs over Lobatse Extension Gunners in the Coca-Cola Cup to luck. He said the reporters should not have given their opinions of the match. He took a swipe at Mmegi saying the information and figures carried on its Friday edition, about Mahalapye primaries were not correct.
He complained that newspapers give a platform to some politicians who are anti-government. Because of these, the Vice President called for government control of the press and said that he supports those people who say they do not read local newspapers.
The MP for Mogoditshane Patrick Masimolole, a former journalist at Radio Botswana, called for more consultation with stakeholders warning that if the bill is rushed, it could drive Botswana the Zimbabwean route. He said that interference by the minister will definitely subject the press in Botswana to the same treatment the Zimbabwean journalists are getting from the government of Robert Mugabe. This will make the two governments similar, he cautioned. He said the fact that there are many complaints from the media
He congratulated the Press Council of Botswana for doing a good job in assisting the media to self-regulate. Referring to Merafhe's earlier comments, Mokgwathi said that the government is trying to control the press to instil fear in journalists not to report on the wrongdoings of those in power. He added that unlike the government press, the private press has a right to scrutinise every kind of information they receive before giving it to the public.
The legislator said that Botswana should benchmark with press councils in developed countries. Mokgwathi said that he is totally against involvement of government in the control of the press as this will kill self-regulation.
He wondered why the minister wants to take over the role of judges when there are clear laws on defamation and slander.
Meanwhile, some lawyers have already warned that the minister cannot establish another press council when there is another one recognised by law.