Following a complaint launched by the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), the National Broadcasting Board (NBB) has found Botswana Television (Btv) and Radio Botswana ‘guilty’ of airing a statement by President Ian Khama last month.
The statement by Khama addressed the internal bickering within the BDP and further justified Khama’s suspension of party secretary general Gomolemo Motswaledi.
In its ruling released midweek, the NBB states that Khama’s statement on Motswaledi was unwarranted as it was a partisan issue and constituted a breach of clause 5.1 of the Broadcasting Code of Ethics that was issued by Communications minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.
The said clause forbids broadcasters from airing political statements outside the election period. The BCP was of the view that the airing of the statement was a clear violation of the code and was aimed at abusing the state media to undermine the electoral process.
Interestingly, the ruling does not acknowledge who launched the complaint but states that it called the director of broadcasting services, Mogomotsi Kaboeamodimo, and four others to a hearing of the complaint.
“Upon listening to the recordings, perusing the documents as well as considering the submission made during the meeting on the 14th September 2009, the board has fully satisfied itself that the Radio Botswana and Btv broadcasts made during 21st August 2009 at 1:30 pm and 6pm and after 9:00 pm amounted to a political party broadcast,” reads the ruling, signed by NBB chair, Dr Masego Mpotokwane.
According to NBB, the statement could never have been of concern to the general public but instead was meant to advance BDP interests as this is clear from the title of the statement which reads ”Current affairs of the Botswana Democratic Party”.
“The board has therefore satisfied itself that Radio Botswana and Btv contravened clause 5.1 of the code which prohibits broadcasting of party political broadcast outside the Elections period,” the ruling reads in part.
Perhaps because there was an order from the Office of the President pressing for the statement to be aired, NBB states that it notes that the department did not get a chance to exercise its discretion on whether or not to broadcast the statement.
As a resolve on the issue, the NBB has ordered that other political parties be given a chance to air their statements.
“DBS should offer other registered Political Parties the opportunity that the Botswana Democratic Party has had to air their Party political broadcast.”
Further, the state run radio and television have been ordered to accord other political parties the same amount of air time that was extended to the ruling party before 14 days.
The BCP had wanted the two broadcasters to be penalized for contravening their own licenses code of ethics
The party contends that the reading of the BDP president’s statement by Kaboeamodimo amounted to a flagrant violation of the code by the two state run media houses.