Thursday, June 13, 2024

Shot of Moatlhodi sleeping like a baby won’t be allowed in the future

The seat that Deputy Speaker, Pono Moatlhodi, occupies in Parliament’s chamber is directly behind one occupied by the Minister of State President, Kabo Morwaeng. The result is that when either man is on the floor, the other is captured in the shot because he is in the cameraperson’s line of sight.

That was what happened not long ago when Morwaeng took to the floor to debate a budgetary proposal relating to the Independent Electoral Commission. With the general election only a year away, Moatlhodi – who is reportedly eyeing the speakership, appears in the shot in the most unflattering fashion.

In that shot, part of which Sunday Standard posted to its Facebook page under the titled “Nap Time”, the Tonota MP is shown sleeping like a baby. The cameraperson had a little fun with this episode, closing up on his face and dispelling all doubt about what is really happening. At one point, Moatlhodi sleepily comes to, opens his mouth and eyes still shut, emits a little uncovered cough. The shot has excited both mirth and anger among the general public – and would certainly have made Moatlhodi himself very angry. Ironically though, he will (as Deputy Speaker) have the last laugh when a new set of standing orders (parliamentary rules on broadcasting proceedings) are implemented.

In terms of those rules, “shots designed to embarrass or ridicule unsuspecting Members of Parliament shall not be shown.” The proposed rules also say that when there is gross misconduct by MPs, “the camera shall focus on the Speaker or Chair for as long as proceedings continue or until order has been restored.” The Speaker becomes Chair when parliament sits as a committee – as when it disburses public funds for a financial year. In the case of unparliamentary behaviour, “the camera shall focus on the Speaker or Chair and shall do so if he or she rises, but occasional wide-angle shots of the Chambers may be shown.”

The standing orders define “gross misconduct” as “incidents of individual, but more likely collective, misconduct of serious disruptive nature as to place in jeopardy, the continuation of the sitting” and “unparliamentary behaviour” as “any conduct which amounts to defiance of the Chair but falls short of gross misconduct.” Gross misconduct would be an incident similar to last month’s when Francistown West MP, Ignatius Moswaane, used a Setswana reproductive-organ insult that rhymes with “mallet” on being ejected by security guards from the chamber as he kicked and screamed.

The proposed rules will usurp editorial independence of the private press, which gets live broadcast feeds from parliament. One proposal says that “a person who receives a broadcast feed from the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit shall broadcast it without any manipulation or distortion.” The word “manipulation” is problematic because it could mean ethically rearranging video’s sequence to more ably and journalistically tell a story.

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