As the government and the Botswana Press Council continue their tiff on the Media Practitioners Bill, which was passed by parliament in 2008, Dr Tachilisa Balule, a Board of Trustees Member of the council and a Law Lecturer at the University of Botswana, told a press gathering in Francistown last week that efforts of self regulation by the Botswana Press Council solely depend in the commitment by the media organizations, which he cited as not very impressive.
During a two-day workshop that was held in Francistown last week, he said that Botswana Press Council as a voluntary organization depends on its members for survival and for protection from being regulated by government.
“To avoid the government from meddling with the Botswana Press Council in regulating itself, there is a high need by the media houses to show commitment and understand the importance of the Botswana Press Council,” he told the workshop.
The Botswana Media Practitioners bill, which has long caused a standoff between government and the media has been perceived by the media fraternity and other civil societies, such as the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), as interfering with the self regulation by the media as it has some elements that are not media friendly. He singled out these as the accreditation and registration of journalists by government. The government has also been blamed for failing to consult before passing the bill.
However, Dr Balule went on to say that the Botswana Press Council as a voluntary organization is facing challenges of members of the media not coming forth to join the council to make the organization a much stronger movement with a stronger voice against attempts by government to clamp its independence.
Dr Balule said that one of the challenges that the council is facing is that it has shortages of funds as it depends solely on the subscription of members and donations from organizations.
“Given the fact that we have few members as a voluntary organization, we are unable to source funds and we merely depend on donors,” he said.
On a different note, Balule advised that it is very important for the media to observe that the Botswana Press Council is there to serve their needs. He said that the council exists to establish a reputable media industry, which is professional and observes moral and ethical standards. He added that this will help it gain public confidence and pressure the government to back off from its interference.
The main objective of the two-day workshop was to create awareness to different media houses and stakeholders about the role of the council.