Fir enough,Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â the president makes news. But Botswana TV's excessive coverage of Ian Khama is nothing but propaganda for the ruling party, writes Mmegi in an editorial.
Last weekend, the government media was in overdrive selling its biggest product – President Ian Khama.
We are not averse to the idea that the activities of a president have potential to make big news, but this should not be a licence to overdo things. The operational word here is potential and that means that not everything a president does is news. It only has more potential to make big news.
Of late, we have seen a sinister pattern in the way government media covers Khama and his deputy Mompati Merafhe. It seems Khama is viewed as an automatic news item. This in itself could be viewed innocently as an attempt to keep the public aware of what their top leader is doing. However, the politics of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is too complex and such a view of what is currently going on at state media is simplistic.
Khama and Merafhe, under the guise of their automatic newsworthiness have become the ultimate political campaign machinery for the ruling party.
Now Btv can claim that it did not cover opposition rallies but it has covered Khama's launching of a BDP candidate because he is the President. This has been the refrain since Khama rose to power last April. Now that he is an automatic news material, followed by Btv lenses wherever he goes, the BDP continues to maximise on this. Khama has been launching candidates across the country and if he is not available, Merafhe is there to the needful and this means more coverage by state media.
Of course the government media, conniving as it does against democracy in this country, will meekly reason that it is covering Khama or Merafhe and not the candidate being launched. Meanwhile, the poor opposition expected to pop out thousands to fund adverts at the state broadcaster or the private press.
The Btv news has now become nothing but short BDP propaganda films whose main character is no-one but Khama himself. Khama becomes the main news article regardless of how mundane his actions are. Btv has become to Botswana what infamous filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl was to Nazi Germany. It rationalises what has to be rationalised by the powers that be and shields what has to be shielded from the unsuspecting public.
And thus we are seeing Btv as the ultimate purveyor of propaganda. The last week was abhorrent. If a piece on one individual can take about 40 percent of the total news, then we are either a very numb country or there is a problem with the very definition of newsworthiness as propagated by the government's television station. This is lamentable indeed, but then perhaps Batswana should expect such things and more from this government.
* This editorial was first published in Mmegi on 3 March 2009.