The government’s policy of secrecy on its operations remains one of the major impediments to a developed media industry in Botswana, sources have revealed.
As the country joins the rest of the world in celebrating the World Press Freedom Day, sceptics believe that the media in Botswana is faced with many challenges, most of them posed by government’s reluctance to disclose information .
Mpho Motlhabani of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) believes that it’s about time the Freedom of Information Act was customary in Botswana because of how the current state of affairs in the country are being run.
“At careful observation, the current legislations in our country are aimed at shrinking the freedom of expression in the media. And with the shady dealings of the DIS, the public is also reluctant to speak out because they believe their phones are tapped and this makes the journalist’s job harder,” said Motlhabani.
He said that MISA supports the Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central, Dumelang Saleshando‘s intention to table the motion for freedom of Information because, as MISA, they are concerned with what they term ‘protecting the public interest.’
He talked about how the state media is completely biased to a point where it disadvantages people who do not have access to the private media.
He pointed out the blackout of coverage on the union’s position during public sector that happened recently, as well as the examinations crisis.
Motlhabani talked about the abuse of the state media by government officials and the harassment that state media employees are under.
“We believe that the public should be granted the freedom to information and we also believe that journalists should work under an enabling environment where their right to freedom of expression is respected. Some of our members working for the state media complain about how they are told what to write and what not to write, this is not the journalism they signed up for,” said Motlhabani.
Meanwhile, educationist and trade unionist, Justin Hunyepa, also believes that the absence of a freedom of information act poses a challenge to media practitioners in general. He believes that more should be done to protect journalists as they have been cases where they are attacked and harassed on the job.
Hunyepa said that he is yet to hear about actions taken against those that have attacked journalists in the past. He is also of the view that the state media has been abused vehemently by the likes of Pelonomi Venson- Moitoi in covering up their ministry’s scandals.
This year, the theme for the Press Freedom Day is dubbed “Dismantling Information barriers” thus MISA emphasises the importance of the motion.