Media practitioners have distanced themselves from the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi's claims that they themselves called for the Media Practitioners Bill, writes Isaiah Morewagae in Mmegi.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
During a consultative meeting with Members of Parliament (MPs) at the Gaborone Sun on Monday, Pamela Dube, of The Voice weekly asserted that the government was in fact imposing the Bill on the media and the nation at large.
Dube said a task force with representation from the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), the Press Council of Botswana, the Editors' Forum, the Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM) and Government was established in 2003 to solicit views on the instantly notorious Mass Media Bill.
"Consultation was done in four major villages, namely, Masunga, Maun, Tsabong and Molepolole," Dube said. "The consensus of the public was that the country needed no such law."
The government disregarded these views and pressed forward with the Bill. "We were told that the Bill would go through with or without the involvement of media practitioners," she asserted.
The Monday meeting, which was called at short notice, was convened to enable MPs a to determine what media practitioners found objectionable in the controversial Bill.
The media practitioners told the MPs that during an earlier consultation process, it was agreed that media practitioners would regulate themselves and remain independent from any form of political interference. But in its present form, the Bill gives the Minister direct involvement in the appointment of committees and the head of the envisaged Press Council, contrary to what was agreed.
Clause 36, which prescribes fines of up P5 000.00 and/or jail terms of up to three years for offenders, came under particular sharp relief for its potential to inspire fear and self-censorship among journalists.
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