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Last Updated
Monday 02 August 2021, 21:48 pm.
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Btv faces suit over news 'blackout'

A Gaborone lawyer acting for striking public service unions has issued a statutory notice to sue Botswana Television (Btv) and the Attorney General for allegedly imposing a news blackout on his clients.
By LEKOPANYE MOOKETSI
Correspondent
(GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Btv faces suit over news 'blackout'








Lawyer Tshiamo Rantao is acting for the National Amalgamated Local and Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU), Botswana Land Boards and Local Authorities' Workers Union (BLBLAWU), Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), Botswana Secondary School Teachers Union (BOSETU) and several union officials. 

Rantao said they are going to seek a court order to declare that the failure by Btv to report on the ongoing public service workers' strike is fairly a breach of their clients' freedom of expression.  He stated that his clients have been "denied the freedom to hold opinions without interference and freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference" by Btv.

He pointed out that these rights are protected explicitly by Section 12 of the Constitution of Botswana. The applicants are also praying that the court should order the respondents to pay for the costs of the case. Rantao said if the court could give judgement in their favour, this would be useful for future references. Since the public service strike started more than a month ago, the government has declared a news blackout on the strike. Btv has only been reporting the views of government officials. 

The state television station has never interviewed union officials since the strike started while government officials have been enjoying the monopoly. Btv has been taking sides with the government

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only reporting about President Ian Khama, Cabinet ministers and senior government officials when they were condemning the strike, critics argue.

They further charge that Btv is always willing to invite government officials to the studio to state their side of the story but the same gesture is not extended to the unions. Even when talks between the union and the employer have collapsed, Btv would, instead of balancing, only report on the government side of the story.

It was even embarrassing during the initial days of the strike because members of a South African television station came to interview Botswana union officials. Their footage was screened on one of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) channels while locally the unionists were denied access to the official media. 

Even unionists have expressed concern about the manner in which they are being treated by the government media. But Btv officials claimed that the union officials have been refusing to be interviewed. This has been denied by the union leaders.
Members of opposition parties

have been lashing out at the government for controlling the airwaves. Yesterday, Mmegi could not get a comment from Btv because the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Mogomotsi Kaboeamodimo, has refused to be interviewed by the private media.
 

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