The leadership of the Botswana National Front (BNF) is deeply concerned and worried about the tendency by some of our members to share sensitive party information with the press. The information shared does not only malign fellow comrades but is also libellous and projects the party negatively.
It is unfortunate that we have some journalists who swallow line, hook and sinker what they are fed with. Being told something by a source and giving the right of reply does not absolve a reporter from wrongdoing. Some of our reporters do not bother to do preliminary and independent investigations. They have now turned themselves into malicious gossip purveyors. The expectation is that if one Cde is loyal, committed and sincere, he/should first raise whatever issue(s) he/she has directly with another cde or within the party structures and not run to the gullible reporters. These reporters tarnish the integrity of the profession and expose their media houses to unnecessary litigation. They also make the nation lose confidence in such an important democratic Institution.
What makes it even worse is that the Media Complaints Committee of the Press Council is almost non-functional and reporters do as they wish. We have been waiting for around two years for a decision on complaints we raised against two media houses. This is disturbing. The intention is to manufacture stories and make them look real. The party’s enemies (some from within and those from without) are disciples of Paul Joseph Goebbels. He said, the untruth once told repeatedly end up being treated as the truth. During Cde Moupo’s leadership all sorts of lies were thrown around about him because the bigger picture was unseating him at the next Congress. In some instances he was accused of being “bought” by the BDP. Lies can be turned to truth in this world, particularly when you have a press that has some unprincipled reporters. Some members of the party are currently conniving and calling some journalists pleading with them to write negatives and untruths about other comrades. This shows the treacherous nature of these comrades who claim to love the party.
They thrive on lies and misinformation. They use the press to de-campaign others in preparation for the next Congress. The image of the party does not matter. What matters is themselves! The individuals in the media who are committed to portraying the BNF negatively, when fed with any negative information about the party or any of its senior members, gleefully rush to print. When differences arise in the BNF (which is inevitable in any properly functioning party), they are given prominence. The other parties have their problems swept under the carpet but positive stories about them are put either on the front page, page 3 or 5. Our media has allowed itself to be used. The independence and adherence to journalism principles is much more important than the media itself.
Freedom of the Press should be respected on the understanding that the media will exercise it properly and not enter into some alliances. If at all it does so, then it has to declare to the reader that it is promoting the interests of a certain political group. We at the BNF are not interested in having moles and implants in newsrooms. It is up to the media practitioners to protect their profession and not allow those who are opposed to press freedom to say, “we told you. These people can’t regulate themselves. We were right in coming up with the Media Practitioners Act.’ This posture against the BNF also has some streaks of McCarthyism. There are certain interests that will never forgive the BNF for being against privatisation; for being the voice of the poor, the workers and generally the downtrodden. Some of the journalists are being used unaware.
In the circumstances, it is difficult to refute allegations of existence of brown envelope journalism in this country. This is a problem that fair and honest media practitioners acknowledge. Its just that they are not united, and are few and far apart. This is what one of them said about his colleagues, “Obviously, they have to talk to and engage politicians but the journalists should remain outsiders if they are to be worthy trusting. Otherwise they lose whatever little credibility they have. The stakes are higher in Botswana where the majority of citizens trust the government officials than they trust journalists”. The onus is on those who care about the profession to redeem it. To our members who flirt with these journalists we say, stop it if you care about the party!
*Mohwasa is BNF Information and Publicity Secretary