Monday, June 5, 2023

Our partisan media disgraces its profession

A local weekly newspaper’s attempt to cast itself as a newspaper that doesn’t hate President Ian Khama is not only mischievous but rings hollow. For example, the louder the newspaper tries to deny its hatred, the more the hatred comes out in the open. I think it is important for the paper to understand that no one is asking them to cozy up to the President. The Managing Editor of the said newspaper, for one, may have been a BDP Member of Parliament in the past but she needs to be out of her misery and be rest assured that she is under no obligation to love the President.

It is bizarre that while the newspaper spews anti-Khama bile every week, it squirms in its editorial when Khama simply calls them out. The Paper bleats, “While we cannot speak for others, we believe that there is no reason to hate the President.” The newspaper does not tell us why there is no reason to hate the President. In trying to explain its hard-line anti Khama stance, the paper adds, ”What we are doing in interrogating his policies is doing our job as best as we know.” The newspaper could do us a huge favour by elaborating on the policies that it professes to interrogate.

Even if we gave the said newspaper the benefit of doubt and assumed that they were indeed undertaking an analysis of Khama’s policies, we wish to be updated on the results of that process. Can the paper, therefore, publish the results of the analysis?

The trouble with this local weekly newspaper and their colleagues in the business is that they have relentlessly denounced, demonized and sought to delegitimize the president from the moment he took office on April 1, 2008 for no other reason than his military background. As a result, the Gazette, The Sunday Standard and Mmegi in particular, had thrown objective news reporting out the window and became fiercely partisan. In fact, they became de facto house organs of the hapless BNF and, to some extent, the BCP.

Having boxed them into that template, it was always going to be extremely difficult for the likes of the Gazette to report straight news about someone that they intensely dislike. If I were in that position, I would also hate to report news that raises the profile of someone that I hate. I would forever look for and file reports that hurt the image of my nemesis. This, therefore, is the predicament that befell the Sunday Standard, Gazette and Mmegi.

Mmegi is in a league of its own given the ideological disposition of its owners towards the failed system of Marxism, which intrinsically had to be anchored on some bogeyman. The BDP because of its respect for sanctity of life, private property, individual freedom and religious tolerance fitted the typical profile of that bogeyman; hence Mmegi’s legendary anti BDP fervour in its news coverage.

The constant editorializing and trashing of Ian Khama by the Gazette, Mmegi and others should be seen in that light and should surprise no one.

It is instructive to note that our media has no trouble reporting positive and straight news as long as the subject is not Khama. You only have to read Gideon Nkala’s (Mmegi Editor) glowing and lengthy tribute to Japan on the June 5, 2009 edition of his paper, to see that our papers can indeed report positive things. Again, I must hasten to add that I am in no way asking for a eulogy of Khama or Botswana for that matter, from Mmegi.

Since taking office last year, Khama regularly traverses the breadth and length of this country meeting with ordinary people. Wherever he goes, the people share their concerns on a wide range of issues including education, alcoholism and, notably, crime.

On the subject of crime, for example, the people tell President that criminals run rampant on our streets and justice is turned into a laughing stock. They also express concerns that criminals get away with light sentences. The Gazette, Mmegi, The Sunday Standard and other members of the media elite have completely ignored these meetings.

Instead, the best that the private media can do is to try and undermine the integrity of those who at least try to uphold law and order. The coverage of the death of one John Kalafatis is a case in point. While the loss of human life is painful, we have seen the media inexplicably elevate John Kalafatis to an iconic status without offering reasons for doing so.

The media prides itself on informing the public but to date it has not bothered to introduce John Kalafatis to their readers. All we know is that he was shot dead by security officers. But who is he? Was he on the police department’s Wanted List? If yes, why? What were the charges or allegations leveled against him? Who really is Kalafatis? Was he an affable altar boy type? These are basic questions that the men and women of the media needed to answer upfront although it’s not late to do so. So far they have failed the basic “Who, What, Where, When, How And Why” questions of journalism.

Instead, we are treated to a sensational, partisan and politicized drama running predictably on that very template of portraying the President and the security forces ÔÇô who by the way sacrifice so much to keep us safe- as cold-blooded killers. Hence the decision by the Gazette and Midweek Sun to publish inflammatory pictures of Kalafatis’s body in their front pages.

In addition, the Botswana Gazette has published an error strewn letter from someone masquerading as a BDF staff member. In the letter, whose ostensible purpose is to lend credence to the Kalafatis case, the writer refers to AK 47 rifle as a “Pistol” and also alludes to armour piercing bullets as anti terrorism bullets, FN Rifle 7.62mm as 7.26mm! Professional soldiers do not make such elementary errors, so this can only be the work of a pseudo journalist on a deliberate mission to incite the nation.

So, yet again, the template is in full display with the Kalafatis death being used to achieve political effect rather than address the circumstances that led to his demise.

In the eyes of our media, the Kalafatis saga presents a good cover to do one and only one thing: beat up Khama the former soldier!

When the Sunday Standard published a malicious story about Khama a couple of weeks ago, some of us expected them to back it up with facts. Instead when cornered, they flashed out the “victim hood” card. When their colleagues also realized that one of their own was standing in quicksand, they and the two BCP lawyers and opposition fanatics immediately circled the wagons around the Sunday Standard to protect it from the consequences of their own words. We didn’t get the usual “we stand by our story” refrain but were subjected to arguments which were meant to distract our attention from the issue at hand.

This, therefore, is the sorry state of our media. Partisan and reflexively anti-BDP.

They want to hold Batswana to a higher standard. When the same yardstick is turned around and applied on them, they cry foul. Their approach is simply that facts must not get in the way of a good story. The most important thing for them is to “speak truth to power” with “facts” and not facts. Hypocrites.

“MacDonald Peloetletse ÔÇô member ÔÇô Culture and Publicity Sub-Committee – BDP”.


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