The recently released African Media Barometer report on Botswana makes for sobering reading, writes Mmegi in an editorial. It reflects that the media are in a dire state, with several laws having been passed that impact negatively on citizens' right to information. 

Mmegi writes in an editorial:

In this edition we carry a story about the recently released African Media Barometer report on Botswana.

The annual report is one of the incisive guides into media development in the country. The current one makes for sober reading and every Motswana interested in the proper development of this country should be worried indeed. At a time when the nation is at economic and political crossroads, the state of the media remains dire.

We know for example that in the last few years, laws have been passed that will impact negatively on the media and the ability of Batswana to enjoy access to a vibrant and free press. We have indicated our worries over the Media Practitioners Act. We are alarmed by many aspects of the law and its ability to be abused by the political leadership to have undue influence on private media practitioners.

It is comforting therefore when the concerns we have expressed for a while are reflected in the findings of a valid and independent study. The African Media Barometer covers many aspects of the media industry. It is a respectable study whose findings is a must-read by all those who are serious about the state of media in our country.

The study reveals that Batswana are increasingly becoming much more unwilling to express their views, while government information is becoming harder to access. The report indicates that the executive has become the sole centre of power with the presidency at its apex. The Media Practitioners Act alongside a battery of other laws like the DIS Act and the National Security Act make the 'security' apparatus answerable to only the executive with no provision for an oversight body.

Events have only come to confirm these concerns as the recent killing of John Kalafatis and the resultant obfuscation indicated. Government's hesitant reaction indicated an executive that is sure that all power is within its ambit. Even Parliament could not do anything except for one or two opposition MPs who asked the government questions about the number of individuals killed or injured in these reckless acts. Then there is the recent confrontation pitying the National Broadcasting Board (NBB) against cabinet minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and the Department of Broadcasting Services over the partisan speech by President Ian Khama broadcast on national radio and TV. That the minister and her team engaged in acts to discredit the NBB indicates that we are years away from a properly recognised NBB and public media. All these should worry Batswana a lot.

Today's Thought

"The content of government media is very selectively chosen and carefully choreographed to meet the needs of the powers that be." – African Media Barometer 2009