Friday, July 15, 2011

MISA response to Attempts to Muzzle Private Media in Botswana

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Botswana wishes to
express its concern over the growing and supposed building of a case
against the private media that has been taunted in the State Media
recently, under the title of rebuttals, on numerous occasions such as
the following dates: 03/06/2011, 09/06/2011, 21/06/2011, 23/06/2011
and on the 30th of June this year. The government, through its State
Media, seems to be attempting to build a case to justify an eventual
gagging of the Private Media. The rebuttals clearly seek to discredit
the private media, while failing to show what wrong exactly, they have
committed. MISA Botswana views this as an attempt at building a case
for a crackdown on the Private Media.

MISA Botswana would like to reaffirm the indispensable and crucial
role of media in a democratic dispensation where freedom of expression
and ideas are allowed to flow without state interference. This role is
the responsibility of not only the private media but the state media
as well, which, unfortunately of late, has abdicated its role of the
dissemination of balanced information. A democratic society through
its media houses should allow its citizens, the opportunity to share
different ideas and views. Without such responsible media where free
flow of expression is allowed, then Botswana's image as a democratic
state will become a thing of the past. The use of State Media to
prevent such expression through other media cannot be condoned and
should not be accepted as justifiable.

The Media in this country, especially the private media, operates
under a very irksome and difficult environment without access to
information legislation which MISA Botswana has long called for
without success. It then follows that media struggle to acquire
information for their daily operation in the first place and are later
accused of not reporting accurately.

Additionally, MISA has also long called for a three tier principle of
broadcasting environment; where Community, Private and Public (and not
government) broadcasting obtain. Instead of acceding to the above
proposals which would broaden the broadcasting space and create an
enabling environment for our media, the government has opted to enact
the controversial Media Practitioners Act- a regressive piece of
legislation which MISA will continue to fight for it to be repealed.

The current attitude by those in power, "of shooting the messenger" as
the saying goes, cannot be allowed to go on indefinitely. MISA
Botswana therefore wishes to call on all stakeholders to allow the
free flow of ideas and expression to become a norm in the new Botswana
towards Vision 2016, whose tenants also, call for a freedom of
Information Act. It is in this light that, MISA Botswana wishes to
raise alarm over the current unending use of the State Media to issue
rebuttals by government without truly challenging the facts reported
by the private media. This concern is premised on the fear that what
is happening in the State Media is a bad practice that could end up
disabling the media in general, in its execution of its core mandate,
of informing the nation.

Modise Maphanyane
MISA Botswana Chairperson

International Institute for ICT Journalism

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