MISA Botswana joins the media fraternity in recognising the fallen heroes in the industry over the past twelve months. As Botswana, we still pride ourselves on the fact that we have not stained our democracy and human rights record by either detaining or killing journalists.
This is a record that we must protect and we can only do so by recognising the input of every Motswana in this regard.
As we mark this year’s commemorations, we are aware of the pitfalls that await journalists in their everyday job. Journalists in Botswana are no different, and it is on record that they too face hostility in some elements in the society.
It is, however, disheartening when such hostility sometimes emanates from those who are expected to know, understand and appreciate the role that a journalist plays in any democracy and nation building.
MISA Botswana does recognise the fact that journalists too are human and are also open to err.
They too can make drastic mistakes like any other professional in his or her job. This is why MISA Botswana joined the media fraternity some few years ago to come up with the Press Council of Botswana. This self regulatory mechanism is in existence with its various structures that could enable proper monitoring of media coverage in the country.
As we have always stated in the past it is unfortunate that the Government has decided to shun and give its back to this admirable venture by the media sector.
Instead of supporting the process, the government decided to be confrontational, coming up with a counter mechanism laced with anti-professionalism and media freedom threat.
While as MISA Botswana we have always indicated our abhorrence to what we find to be draconian laws, notably the latest one, Media Practitioners Act, we remain optimistic that the people of Botswana have tasted the value of democracy and will not let it slip through their fingers. We are so hopeful that we even believe government will eventually see sense in our point of view and normalise the situation.
We are concerned by the negative image this unnecessary tussle has created in the international arena. The Government is burdened with other important issues such as the declining economic situation and the never ending contest with Survival International over the CKGR matter. We feel the Government has a lot in its hands and it is time she realised that some of these battles are totally uncalled for.
Over the past year, we have seen a growing perception that press freedom is seriously under attack.
One can recall the president threatening to sue the Sunday Standard newspaper and a number of other suits by other people, some of them successful.
While every citizen has the right to protect his or her name, we believe it is high time we look at these issues differently. We must try to start with bringing people together to avoid going to the courts because at the end of the day, as people, we will continuously have differences despite the law suits.
Another development that really scares the nation is the continuing abuse of the state media by the state and the ruling party. This situation was worsened by the moving of the state media into the Office of the Presidency, immediately after the 2009 elections.
We have seen a Director of Broadcasting, a civil servant, reading a party statement on behalf of the President. We have seen a minister withdrawing a broadcasting code for elections just because the National Broadcasting Board found the state broadcasters guilty of violating the code.
Finally, we call upon all stakeholders to continuously engage each other despite the differences. We applaud the recent gesture by Government to reopen engagements on the Media Practitioners Act.