In a new development, government has openly called for state journalists to be professional in their media work and avoid taking side.
The state-owned media-Botswana television, both radio stations and the Daily News, have been accused of bias in their reporting especially on political issues. The ruling Botswana Democratic Party has always been accused by the opposition for hogging the state media for itself and give little attention on events organised by opposition parties. So it was a surprising announcement by acting Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Shaw Kgathi, when he implored his charges in the state broadcasting and information services this week in Gaborone to ensure that
During the upcoming general elections, “We as politicians rely on you for informing the electorate on the processes and other matters they need to know about,” he said.
“I wish to encourage you in your programming and news reporting, to continue to be professional as you have been, to give accurate, truthful and informative material, not just about politics, but about other issues that Batswana care about as well. We all rely on you for credible information. Even during elections, Batswana need to be entertained through your programming because somehow that helps to ease the inevitable anxiety that permeates the electioneering atmosphere,” he said.
However, Kgathi reiterated that the stet media is not a private entity operating on its own terms and conditions. He said the Information and Broadcasting department is not a public service corporation like the British Broadcasting Corporation or the South African Broadcasting Corporation, or the print equivalents of those. Radio Botswana, Botswana Television, BOPA, Daily News, Government Printing and Publishing and related services are government services, financed by the Botswana government to provide information and communication services for all Batswana, regardless of their political or religious orientation, or ethnicity, he said. “These services are subject to all laws governing the conditions of services of all public officers in Botswana,” he said.
Kgathi hailed them for the preparatory work where they put together a schedule of live Radio and Televised debates on the Daily News, “and we continue to see and hear informative coverage of the electioneering campaigns on both Radio Botswana and Botswana Television, as well as read about these in the Daily News. We commend you for your efforts,” he said.
Kgathi, who was accompanied by his assistant minister, Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri, said he is aware of the efforts of the state media workers to deliver on their mandate under meagre resources.
“I am very much aware that as with all public services, you have to contend with several challenges in your assignments for programming, news coverage and support services for these functions. The resources limitations surrounding your work are due largely to constraints on the national government budget. I have been informed of your dire need for accommodation within the neighbourhood given the difficult times when you have to be reporting for duty. As professionals in the business of communication and information, you would be the first to understand the economic factors at play that limit the extent to which government can provide all the resources you need to do your job to its optimum, hence the universal call on the Botswana public service by this Government to do more with less, so that more of us can benefit. I am in constant consultation with the senior leadership in your Ministry to explore ways by which we can make your job easier and more enjoyable within the resources at our disposal,” he said.
Kgathi said government has over the years invested heavily in the professional training and development of state media workers. Out of a staff establishment of 367 public officers within the Department of Broadcasting Services, 195 officers or 53.7% are degree holders while 66 officers or 18.1% hold Diploma qualification, he revealed.
“Only 102 or 28% hold other qualifications. We are content with the quality of work that you do as professionals. I therefore, would like to call upon you to protect your image as professionals by upholding high levels of ethical and professional conduct. As Radio and Television personalities, you stand a great opportunity to impact on the lives of many people particularly young people as role models and people who command culture capital,”.
“As government journalists, photographers, programme producers, announcers, editors, engineers, machine operators and managers, you need re-orientate your thinking and adjust to the fact that you are the information machinery of the government of the day. This is why the whole of government and the rest of the economy of Botswana, relies on you to facilitate national dialogue, by connecting government with every citizen every day. Like all government employees, you ought to stay apolitical and should not engage in any possible bias that can compromise your quality of work”.