Tuesday, October 27, 2020

NACA Chief laments lack of professionalism in the media

NACA (National AIDS Coordinating Agency) is worried about the uncontrolled issuing of HIV/AIDS statistics including by agencies that are not authorized.
Addressing the media recently the Chief of NACA Batho Molomo said his organization is the only authorized custodian of HIV/AIDS statistics in Botswana.
A former Government Statistician Molomo said even President Festus Mogae has on a number of occasions complained about the integrity of some of the figures given by such agencies as the UNDP and UNAIDS.
In most cases such cases are in variance with the national figures as provided by NACA and the Central Statistics Office.
Common thinking is that some agencies deliberately bloat Botswana’s HIV figures as a strategy to use such statistics in their requests for funding from international donors.
On another note Molomo said he was worried that the relationship between NACA and the media has been rather tempestuous.
He said there were instances when the fundamental principles of journalism were disregarded when reporting on NACA.
He said to make matters worse when his organization gave rebuttals such efforts were simply disregarded.
“Why was NACA denied the right of reply?” he asked.
He said there is a “frightening” culture emerging among the media in Botswana. He underscored the importance of the media operating in an environment governed by a code of ethics.
He said there are many roles the media can play which he said included compassionately providing information to those already infected on where to get assistance as well as highlighting and showcasing Botswana’s efforts and success in its partnership with international organizations.
“Can the media in this country claim any of these and to what degree? My view is that this has somewhat been overshadowed by negative and often sensational reports that only result in depiction of the national response which is defunct and without direction, thus negating our efforts,” said Molomo.
He singled out reports to the effect that there were funds sourced by Botswana Government from the Global Fund which were missing.
The truth he said was that when the money was offered Botswana had capacity problems to immediately utilize all of the $18.5 million that was offered within the time frame as given by the source.
It took a long time before Botswana could even use half of the money.
Another problem, said Molomo is that the money comes with accountability and accounting conditions which many recipient organization in Botswana especially in the rural areas find hard to meet.
As such a lot of time was spent training the implementing partners before money could be disbursed.
While admitting weaknesses in the monitoring and evaluation systems for tracking of funds, Molomo said: “I would refute any media sponsored allegations of missing funds insinuating so many malicious probabilities. This test in my opinion has failed the test of professional journalism and to that extent the information circulated was misleading and malicious.”
He said the result has been that NACA acquired a negative reputation it did not deserve.
“If we allow our professional judgment and rationality to be clouded by prestige and celebrity seeking reporting then together we stand to lose gains of so much we have achieved, including undermining the confidence and trust of our partners, internally and externally. This we cannot afford.”

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The Telegraph October 28

Digital edition of The Telegraph, October 28, 2020.