Employees at government media are living in constant fear as the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) is said to be now remote-controlling them.
Inside sources at Mass Media complex which houses Botswana Television, Department of Information Services (Daily News and Kutlwano magazine) and Radio Botswana have revealed that that some DIS officers are working in their offices.
“We no longer look forward to going to work and we just do our job because of the passion we have for journalism and to put food on our tables. If it was not for that, most of us could have long left this prison,” said a worried reporter.
The leaked Khama Gcwihaba Caves picture
Early this year, Weekend Post published a photo of President Ian Khama inside the Gcwihaba Caves. This caused an uproar at the Office of the President as the photo was not supposed to have been shared with members of the private media.
OP called for an investigation to establish how the photo was leaked to the private media and DIS agents were called in to interrogate BOPA reporters especially the photographers, it is reported.
After the security agents failed to connect anyone to the leaking of the photo, they tightened security at the state media house.
The state journalists were also accused of leaking stories to the private media especially those (stories) relating to their bosses.
“I suspect that our movements are also monitored to check whom we interact with, especially with members of the private media and opposition politicians,” said another employee at state media.
Transfer of officers to other ministries
Government media, which has been under the Ministry of Information Science and Technology, was transferred to the OP after the 2009 general elections.
The transfer of the state media to OP was widely criticised with some fearing that government wants to have a firm control over it. Immediately after its relocation to OP, many of the reporters who were seen to be sympathetic to opposition parties were re-deployed to other government departments mostly to work as public relations officers.
Senior producer at state television, Joshua Ntopolelang won a case against the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) after he was transferred to the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources (MMEWR) to work as a principal public relations officer.
Another reporter who won a similar case against Btv was Thato Nthite who was also transferred to another ministry. Both reporters felt that their transfers were politically motivated and hastily done. Some of the notable Btv reporters who have since left the state broadcaster include Doreen Moapare, Brian Dioka and Lentswe Chibane.
Veteran journalist Sakaeyo Jane and Vusi Ziga fought against their deployment and won the case at the industrial court.
Biometric clocking system machine and hidden cameras
Recently, biometric clocking system machines were installed at the Mass Media complex and employees had their fingerprints taken, to be used when they clock in and out after work.
A source said the machine is used in such a way that it can recognise a person based on their physiological or behavioral characteristic. Among the features measured are face, fingerprints, hand geometry, handwriting, iris, retinal, vein and voice.
Some employees said that they were shocked recently to find that they are being monitored by hidden cameras which have been installed even in toilets.
According to the staffers interviewed by The Patriot on Sunday, they were never consulted about the installation of the hidden Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras and do not know how long they have been there.
“These guys have literally set up a command centre at Mass Media complex and know what we are doing in our offices and how many times we go to the toilet,” said a worried Btv reporter.
Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), a union representing most of central government employees, including government journalists, has confirmed that they know about the concerns of their members at Mass Media.
Secretary General Topias Marenge said that through their labour relations officer based at government media they are assessing the situation.
“The most prevalent concern is the transfer of officers to other departments without following the right procedures and some of the cases are already before the industrial courts,” Marenga said.
Called for comment about the allegations, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President Kaboeamodimo said that he does not discuss internal issues with the private media.
“Do I ever call your superiors and ask them whether they are investigating you or not,” said the livid Kaboeamodimo.