Thursday, July 7, 2022

Gabz FM challenged to defend its journalists

The Botswana Council of Non Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) has condemned an action by the Gabz FM Management for always tendering apologies to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party activists.

BOCONGO Chairperson and media activist, Thapelo Ndlovu, was commenting on reports that, last week, some activist officials of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Mokgweetsi Masisi, are reported to have forced private station Gabz FM to apologise.

This was after airing a live program in which one of its presenters, Reginald Richardson, had asked the minister to clarify reports that he allegedly played with a condom during a Parliament session.
Ndlovu challenged the private radio station to rise to the occasion and protect its journalists.

“GabzFM has a history of a weak backbone in defending its own journalists. Overtime, it has allowed interference, especially from the ruling party and government,” he said.

Ndlovu warned that private radio stations in Botswana would be relegated to an extension of state radios if they are perceived to give in to such interference.

“There was totally no harm in the incident concerned. In fact, the minister had the opportunity to explain very well and convincingly,” he said.

Ndlovu is of the view that journalists also need to enter a new phase of activism and be able to stand against management if it is a case of obvious interference like that.

“They should have risked their jobs and refused to continue with the segment of the programme that day. Journalism is not just a job; it is a safety net for wider and fundamental right of freedom of expression,” he said.

Ndlovu further warned that the private media must be careful not to become threat to free press itself.

MISA Botswana Chairman, Modise Maphanayane, described the apology as unfortunate saying it was inappropriate for the journalists to have been made to apologise by the management.

“It looks quite unfortunate that the management was compelled to apologise. I feel quite sad that presenters were made to apologise in the manner that they did because they had done nothing wrong,” said Maphanyane.

Gabz FM Executive Director, Lesego Komanyane, has since declined to comment on the matter.

On Thursday last week Komanyane issued a memo stating that: “This morning during the interview you had with the Minister for Presidential Affairs, Mokgweetsi Masisi, he was questioned about a condom incident in Parliament. This has riled some of our listeners, especially the older ones, more traditionalist members of society.”

He added that: “I have decided that for the sake of the radio station, we will air a short apology tomorrow morning even if this riles you as much as you angered your listeners.”

He explained that he was not prepared to enter into a debate as to the pros and cons of whether they should or should not apologise and the merits thereof, adding that “this is an instruction”.

“You will read the apology before the start of the show and will not allow any listener to comment on the issue or raise it. Neither will the two presenters discuss the issue amongst themselves. The issue is closed,” concluded Komanyane in his memo.

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