Saturday, May 30, 2020

The media too has to change

It is not very often that as the media we pause to introspect and publicly look at ourselves ÔÇô or, as the saying goes, wash and dry our linen in public. The tendency is always to close ranks.

But if we are to continue to demand that people look and take us seriously, if we are to continue to be relevant in a meaningful way, it is absolutely essential and critical that from time to time, we do not only listen to the people we like to say we are serving but are also seen to be introducing the necessary reforms and adaptations that are vital for our survival.

It cannot be that the media in Botswana proceeds ahead under a mode of “business as usual.”

As newsrooms we have to open up and ensure that as institutions, we reflect the ratio proportions of our democratic makeup.

A failure to democratise and reflect our national demographic makeup is a major indictment that continues to haunt the media industry in Botswana as it continues to resist state orchestrated attempts to control, manipulate and muzzle it.

The gender imbalances that currently permeate the newsrooms across the country where men dominate not just the top leadership positions but are also by far represented throughout the whole structure cannot go on forever.

It goes without saying that, as the media, we stand to lose our moral high ground to speak for and on behalf of the weaker members of our society and those sections of our population who are marginalised, if on the one hand we are active participants of any form of discrimination.

Just how do we hold authorities accountable when we as the media resist all attempts at reform?

It is a fact of life that Botswana media discriminates against women. This form of discrimination in subtle in that while no media house actively discriminates against hiring women, none of the same institutions – bizarrely including those media houses that are owned and controlled by women ÔÇô has put into place deliberate mechanisms that proactively enhance women chances in their structures.
It is important to note that a marginalisation of this magnitude cannot go on forever without eroding the credibility and long-term survival of ourselves as the media.

Women constitute an important proportion of our population. They are a resource that as the media we can only disregard at our own peril.

In that instance the media has to stop with immediate effect being an active participant in the ongoing institutional discrimination against women.

Of course, the crime of discrimination against women by newsrooms can easily be traced to scandalous inequalities where about 10 percent of our population get to be the ones who control close to 90 percent of our national resources.

It’s high time the media in Botswana did something about the evil imbalances and discrimination inherent in its operations. If the media fails to introduce reforms, it will not be long before we attract labels of being elitist, or worse being accused of siding with the rulers against the marginalised.

More importantly, the sustainability of the media will forever remain precarious for as long as newsrooms continue to sideline an important proportion of our national demographic makeup that is women.

Having said that we want to encourage Batswana women to carve spaces for themselves.
It is not enough to be complacent and celebrate just because as a country we have a woman Central Bank Governor. It will never be enough to have a woman Attorney General. It cannot be enough to have a woman High Court Judge.

What is important is to empower women across the country, especially in the countryside where a majority of them still reside.

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.