Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Botswana journalists’ stories on HIV lacked originality

Newsrooms in Botswana are not investing as much as in the rest of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region on obtaining original stories, especially those relating to HIV and AIDS, the findings of an HIV and AIDS and Gender Baseline Study have revealed.

The study indicated that gender dimensions of the epidemic have been accorded sufficient space in the reporting.

This was disclosed at a workshop intended for presenting the outcome of the research by a South African-based, regional non-governmental organization, Gender Links, last Thursday at the President Hotel.

It was stated that with 59 percent of stories written by journalists, as compared to 28 percent obtained from agencies and 23 percent from guest writers, it meant that Botswana media relies on outside sources for information on HIV and AIDS more so than in the region.

The report gives 77 percent for original stories, 18 percent from agencies and 5 percent guest writers as comparative figures for the region.

“This shows that despite Botswana media being on a firmer financial footing than applies to many countries in the region, media houses are not investing as much in ensuring original and in-depth coverage of the pandemic,” the report pronounced.

Evidence unearthed by the study suggested that 83% of the stories monitored, as against 78% for the region, which represented a vast majority of HIV coverage is through news stories.
To corroborate the gravity of the problem, the study further showed that the voices of people with HIV and AIDS are hardly heard.

“People with HIV and AIDS constituted 4 percent of all sources which was the same as the region, and officials, United Nations (UN) agencies and experts represented majority of sources,” read the report. What was however found comforting was the fact 75 percent of the recorded sources were women.

Colleen Morna, Director of GL expressed concern that what compounded the situation even more was the fact with a few exceptions, gender was not well integrated into HIV and AIDS coverage. To mark this, the study classified it as either gender blind or unclear.

Morna pointed out that closer analysis of the topics of the stories sampled showed that in prevention, the sub-topics that examined cross generational sex and gender-based violence and gender power relations received less than 6 percent of total coverage each, as did significant drivers of the epidemic.

Cultural practices received no coverage at all during the monitoring period, while the role of boys and men only got 3 percent.

“With regard to care, support and the environment, home-based care occupied just 5 percent of print or broadcast space, which is a concern given the serious implications that the provision of care has on women and girls,” lamented GL Director.

However, the GL Chief posited that not all was lost, as the intensification of training of journalists, improved access to information as well as implantation of appropriate gender specific policies could actually go a long way towards bridging the gap.

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