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Why discriminate private media at public events?

Publishing Date : 24 April, 2018

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This week, government officials came into the spot light for the wrong reasons again. It is worrying that Government officials still want to pursue a media policy that seeks to sideline private media from the important affairs of the country.

This kind of behaviour is not new. It manifested itself during the administration of Lt Gen Ian Khama. During Khama’s leadership, private media was treated with disdain. This largely emanates from the entitlement mentality that continues to occupy many in government office. At the inauguration of President Mokgweetsi Masisi, it was announced that only state media photojournalists would be allowed to participate in taking pictures of the president, moments after he took his oath.

Subsequent to the announcement, in a bid to take two or three shots of the newly installed president, private media were almost bundled by security agents until the president himself came to their rescue. This is kind of behaviour is highly regrettable and it even possibly embarrassed the new president himself hence his decision to rebuke security agents over the altercations with the journalists.

If that was not enough, this week in an event which was supposed to be euphoric for all those who were present, it was another bad day for journalists again, photojournalists in particular. The police could not allow them to take pictures of our national heroes and heroines when they arrived from Gold Coast on Wednesday. Again, the police indicated that they had been instructed by the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development only to allow state media into some areas. This is outrageous, irresponsible and embarrassing.

The importance of private media in Botswana cannot be underestimated. If anything, it is the private media, which through its probing, insightful and eye catching stories that continues to play a huge role in the growth of sports, athletics in particular. Not only is coverage of sport necessary to sell papers, it also creates value for important stakeholders such as sponsors. Sponsors are looking for publicity and exposure at all cost. All of us know how important sponsors to sport development in Botswana are.

The government policy does injustice to those who want to partner with various associations because the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) and government project themselves as anti-private media. It is all worth noting that there are no justifiable reasons whatsoever for government and their stake holders to start altercations with the private media unless we have missed the memo. If there was a process which they wished to have followed prior to the event, it should have been communicated well in time.

Botswana could be the only country in the world, which thinks media is not an important stakeholder. Media is at the core of all products, because they project the product to the public. What people make of our sport is largely informed by what the media writes. Therefore it is necessary for the likes of BNOC to ensure that they project themselves in good light. The BNOC should really make amends and ensure that this does happen again, at least for the sake of the development of sport in Botswana.

As for government, there is clear need for conversation. There is absolutely no reason to want to offer preferential treatment to state media in events that are of interest to the public. It is honestly wrong and unjustified. This behaviour has got nothing to do with the political side of government. We are aware of a few excited individuals within government and at various ministries who have a ‘score’ to settle with the private media.

We are of the view that this childish behaviour needs to stop, now! It is disturbing that most of the decisions that border on harassment of private media journalists are coined by individuals who abuse their imagined closeness to ministers or those in the high echelons of power. Very soon we will name and shame these individuals who drunk with self-importance.



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