Government has singled out Gabz FM from other radio stations and slapped an advertising ban on them because of the election debates sponsored by the American Embassy, The British High Commission and BOFEPUSU, which the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) maligned as an “evil” plan, Sunday Standard has been informed.
In the run up to the general elections, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi warned that Gabz Fm which is part of a stable of media houses including Botswana Guardian, The Midweek Sun, Mmegi and Mmegi Monitor should not forget that they survive on government advertising. Masisi disclosed how they tricked Gabz FM into believing that the BDP would be part of the US Embassy sponsored election debate but later boycotted it because it was an “evil” plan. Masisi further disclosed that the BDP came up with an antidote for the evil plan and opened “secret talks” with Yarona FM and Duma FM.
Both Yarona FM and Duma FM have been listed among approved media for government and parastatals advertising. BDP insiders believe that the private media is to blame for the party’s poor performance in the recent general elections, and the planned advertising boycott is an attempt to get back at the private media and weaken them before the next election.
The BDP polled less that 50% of the popular vote for the first time in the history of Botswana’s elections, but managed to form a government because of the country’s first past the post system. The advertising ban is part of a pattern by government to fight the media. Earlier this year, President Khama announced that government would start financing senior government officials wishing to launch defamation law suits against the private media.
The move was planned to have a chilling effect on the media’s freedom of expression. This was a sequel to his scathing attack on the private media during the BDP 35th national congress in Maun last year. Khama devoted a significant part of his speech to expressing his dislike for the local media which he described as unpatriotic and dominated by greedy individuals who want to lead people astray.
“These people are shallow in their reasoning and do not contribute anything that is good to the society. They have blinded themselves with negativity in their desperate attempt to discredit us in order to promote the opposition”, he said.