Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Media and politicians conspiring against the public

A famous American essayist and journalist H.L. Mecken once said the only way a reporter should look at a politician is down.
How I wish local journalists could take heed of Mecken’s advice, however cynical.
The relationship between journalists and politician has always been the one premised on distance and detachment.
But the kind of relationship that exists between journalists and politicians today is totally different and opposite to the one that many of us would have wished.
While the two parties have always met on many occasions in the line of duty, it was always a given that the two sides were two separate tribes; distinct and detached from one another.
Unfortunately over the recent past we have seen a blurring of the lines to an extent where now the journalist is not just hugger-mugger with politician but often comes across as a willing and eager sex partner.
There is no doubt that proximity has its own compelling advantages, like allowing the journalist the much coveted access.
For the journalist access almost guarantees the flow of stories, while in return the politician is able to extract a trade-off which on its own guarantees that difficult questions will not be asked.
Very clearly even from a distance it is abundantly clear that what takes place here is a conspiracy of some sort is possibly illegal.
There is no need to emphasise that almost invariably, the end loser is always the public who is never taken into confidence about the untidy relations that exist today in the murky underworld of journalism and politics.
For as long as the public is not taken into confidence on the informal relations that subsists behind the scenes, then the public have no reason to trust either the media or the politicians who run the country.
The decadent system of relations thereby produces a devious press cadre who has to keep dancing to the manipulative machinations of a politician who often doubles as a sex partner.
How on earth can a journalist hold a senior politician accountable when the two are also sex mates?
Politicians are hardly moral beacons anywhere in the world and this calls for detached scrutiny by a journalist who can be trusted.
The current relationship between journalists and politicians is not only unhelpful but acutely detrimental to the interests of the public, who for a greater part sincerely believe that journalists can hold politicians accountable.
It is a mystery that the ever growing level of collaboration and indeed collusion between our journalists and politicians has escaped the attention of media researchers, especially when it is very clear that almost on a daily basis the public is fed an elaborately sanitized account of events which from what we now see is increasingly being edited from between the sheets; presumably with the journalist looking at the politician up, which by itself goes against the ethos set by H.L. Mecken.
Another area of gross transgression in the scheme of relations between media and politics has to do with ownership.
Botswana it would seem is headed for a total contamination of this axis as well.
All of a sudden we have politicians setting their eyes in owning and controlling the newsrooms.
The mistaken assumption was that there is money to be made in the media. While that may be true for other countries, the same cannot be said about Botswana.
Thankfully some of our politicians have are learnt the hard way that you can’t make money by owning newspapers in Botswana.
I have a deep-rooted personal aversion to politicians who want to own or even control the media. And I make no apologies about it.
When all is said and done Batswana should forever be worried at the concentration of media power in few hands, including as we have increasingly seen over the last few weeks, into the hands of some faceless and clandestinely rogue elements who are not well-known BDP financiers.
Tragically some of our so called experienced heroes in the media have on account of various unfortunate personal circumstances into which they find themselves also become willing mercenaries, dutifully the delivering the media under the jackboot of these footloose capitalists whose intentions are not altogether tidy.

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