Concern over deteriorating journalistic ethics

SHARE   |   Monday, 12 September 2016   |   By Ketlhalefile Motshegwa
Local Journalists at a Botswana Media Allied Workers Union luanch last Friday Local Journalists at a Botswana Media Allied Workers Union luanch last Friday

A. Pushparaj says “the term media is derived from medium, which means carrier or mode. Media denotes an item specifically designed to reach a large audience or viewers … In the world of today the media has become as important as clothing and food’’. Here the effort is in trying to denote what media is; its function and essential purpose of existence. Further elucidation and enlightenment can be discerned from stipulations and illumination of Cathrine Happer and Greg Philo in their paper The Role of Media in the Construction of Public Belief and Social Change wherein they state that “…Media play a central role in informing the public about what happens in the world, particularly in those areas in which audiences do not possess direct knowledge or experience”.

From the globe we learn of great journalists such as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who are highly decorated and in some quarters celebrated and in some quarters despised for Watergate investigations. Now at home, in this very republic times have produced remarkably prodigious journalists. Broadly the role of media can be explained as that one of bringing social awareness and in furtherance its significant bearing is also in strengthening of society through education and conscience enhancing. For that, in Botswana‘s political system just like in other Countries media is bestowed with colossal power in shaping the citizenry’s perception of the world. In media’s role of reporting news, people have consequently placed their trust and dependence upon fourth estate for generation and provision of information.

With the role of media articulated there is however apprehension over some of the qualities of stories and lacklustre and substandard efforts and thus denting the credibility of media. This happening borders on and/or breeds “yellow journalism” which is pinned on reporting shocking and repugnant stories in order to fascinatedly entice readers and sell more papers. Here we speak shoddy research and instances where opinions and hearsays are turned into facts, where journalists will take some unscrupulous sources and give them reputation within their stories. Reference is being made to journalists who make career out of smear campaigns and denigrations with stories devoid of credibility and authenticity. This then lead to the issue of a log in the eye of media in Botswana.

Recently BOFEPUSU and its affiliates have been subjected to abuse by one journalist who seems to be ranting wrath against the Federation and its agenda. This is a fellow who has given himself a job description of writing flimsy stories about the Federation in his spree of articles satisfying his smear campaign against BOFEPUSU to extend that he even engage in manufacture of ghost sources which he tags as anonymous and reliable. Given his history with the organisation, we can only interpret the perennial actions of the said journalist as some act of kindness payment to his handlers and sponsors in the anti-BOFEPUSU crusade. Or he could be on some sponsored mission to destroy the Union with untruthful stories hiding under the power and influence of media, but he needs to be reminded that he is throwing a stone at a giant that stood the test of time and will always be.

In one of his stories he said former BNF President Otsweletse Moupo is to become the President of BLLAHWU. Had he acquainted himself with the constitution of the Union, its electoral rules, and recognition agreement he would have realised that he is talking the impossible. It’s like saying you are seeing the sun at night. Newspapers must work hard to instill objective and descriptive journalism, lest they rob the unsuspecting citizenry. This calls for reporters to report facts instead of hiding behind a pen and launch personal agendas knowing that other people and organisations don’t have the same platform as them. The emphasis is on thorough research and professionalism. Of course there are many brilliant and objective journalists but it is the log in the eye that dents the credibility of journalism. We as citizenry are expected to continue to provide support to the media for their role is important. It is our societal duty to mould these people and give them feedback because it has been put by Xhosas that “umntu ngumtu ngabanye abantu”.

Ketlhalefile Motshegwa
BLLAHWU Secretary General