GOVERNMENT broadcasting services director, Mogomotsi Kaboeamodimo says the state media takes orders from President Ian Khama and nobody else, writes Ephraim Keoreng in Mmegi.
In a statement that echoed the recent High Court ruling against Botswana Democratic Party suspended secretary general, Gomolemo Motswaledi, Kaboeamodimo further explained that Khama enjoys constitutional privilege to use the state media whichever way he chooses without being answerable to anyone.
Kaboeamodimo was responding to a National Broadcasting Board judgment which found the state media guilty of unfairly giving the ruling BDP airtime to address its members. The state media was found guilty of giving the BDP unfair opportunity to campaign without offering the same to the opposition. The ruling comes after the opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) took the state media to the NBB after Khama's address on the Motswaledi fiasco a few weeks ago.
In a press statement Kaboeamodimo explained that though they acknowledge the National Broadcasting Board's regulatory role through the issuance of broadcasting licences, they doubt the powers of the board over Radio Botswana and Botswana Television (Btv) beyond giving out such licenses. The broadcasting boss was responding to NBB's decision to fault Radio Botswana and Btv for violating the broadcasting code.
The decision came after state media aired the full version of President Ian Khama's speech on problems in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). More controversy was generated by the speech because it was read by Kaboeamodimo on both radio and TV. The broadcasting boss has said that the state media is subject to provisions of the Public Service Act Cap 26:01 with respect to the general duties of public officers.
He said that when the state media deals with matters from the Office of the President (OP), they are "mindful of the constitutional provisions with respect to executive privileges and powers of a sitting president who presently happens to be simultaneously a political leader. "In this context, we believe it is necessary to engage the board (NBB) to seek further clarification in order to facilitate compliance with the code and on matters incidental to any such compliance and which matters may be peculiar to Botswana Television and Radio Botswana," he said.
Kaboeamodimo added that though the statement read on the state broadcasters dealt with BDP matters, it was issued by the state president from the OP via the state media. "The president made it clear that he considered the issue to be a matter of concern to both the BDP and the nation at large. My position is that when the head of state has determined a matter to be of national importance and warranted it for nation-wide broadcast on the state media, it is not for Radio Botswana and Botswana Television to question such a decision," he said.
He stated that the state media continue to cover all active political parties in their news broadcasts and current affairs programmes. He said the fact that some parties have more activity than others is not a creation of state broadcasting stations but a reality of the present political landscape. "We categorically state that no political party or individual has been favoured or disadvantaged in any manner by Btv or Radio Botswana coverage of elections-related political activity as has been suggested by some with respect to Btv," he said.
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