Govt bans advertising on critical media houses

15 Dec 2014

Government is reported to have issued a secret directive to its various ministries and parastatals to stop advertising in all newspapers in the country except The Voice and The Ngami Times. Gabz FM is the only local radio station that has been lumped with the advertising ban on the country national quality newspapers. Sunday Standard has intercepted an internal communication listing The Daily News, The Voice, The Ngami Times BTV, RB1, RB 2, Duma FM, Yarona FM and Government portal as the only approved media for government and parastatals advertising.

Sunday Standard, Mmegi, Botswana Guardian, Weekend Post and the Patriot on Sunday are among the papers blacklisted by the government and parastatals have been informed to stop advertising in papers and radio stations considered to be critical of government. Gabz FM radio station has also been left out of the list of radio stations preferred by the government as it is considered critical of government policies. The internal memo from one of the government parastatals states that the same Parastatal together with other government entities has been instructed by government to stop advertising on unapproved media platforms with effect from 1st December 2014. No reason has been given for the withdrawal of the advertisement in some print and electronic media.

The internal memo then lists a number of radio stations and newspapers that have been approved by the government. Sunday Standard has also learnt that some government institutions had booked adverts in some newspapers and radio station and later started pulling them out without any reasons. MISA Botswana National Director Buyani Zongwani said he was aware of unconfirmed reports that some government departments and parastatals had been given a directive to stop advertising with some private media houses in the country.

If indeed there is such a directive, Zongwani said, it is illegal. He cited a High Court decision by Justice Isaac Lesetedi in a case in which the Botswana Guardian newspaper had taken the government to court over an advisement ban; the judgment was in favour of the paper. “The law states that government advertisement should not use advertising to punish media houses for their editorial position because it is a violation of the constitutionally enshrined freedom of expression.

Media houses should not be punished for exercising their right of free speech. Remember that this argument was upheld by Justice Lesetedi in a High Court judgment which emanated from the case involving Botswana Guardian newspaper and the government in which government was ordered not to lift its advertising ban against The Guardian and its sister publication, The midweek Sun. Zongwani said MISA was monitoring the situation closely. Zongwani added that if indeed there is such a directive MISA would mobilise other media bodies and media houses to challenge the directive before the High Court. Contacted for comment, Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi denied as untrue reports that the government has issued a directive instructing some government entities and parastatals to stop advertising with some private newspapers and radio stations.

“Those are only malicious reports aimed at tarnishing the government because the allegations are baseless. Presidential Affairs Minister Eric Molale also said that he was not aware of the directive or government’s ban from advertising in some of the private media houses.