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State Media election coverage takes shape

The new administration at the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is warmed up to the idea of fairness in this year’s elections as state media (BTV, RB and Daily News) is expected to provide equal coverage to political parties in the October general elections.

This comes as the government moves to implement the recommendations by Ombudsman, Augustine Makgonatsotlhe after condemned unfair and profitable coverage by state media with its positive coverage slanting towards the BDP. In addition, the government through the Office of President (OP) wants to practice the new broadcasting law which seeks to level the political playing field. The Botswana Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) in 2017 tightened broadcasting laws and will for the first time regulate state media coverage of election campaigns in a move that is expected to give the opposition a fair fighting chance.

These, observers believe it could work against the BDP which has always used the media as “propaganda machinery” during elections season. The new development has been endorsed by President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who according to insiders have made it clear that he will like to debate with his counterparts; Duma Boko and Ndaba Gaolathe of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) respectively with electorates watching and or listening.

Masisi has also embraced the need to give all the political players fair airplay in state media. The new broadcasting law was effected consequent to a study by Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) which revealed that a vast space of the broadcasting sector remains unregulated. “The most influential radio media, RB1 and RB2 and BTV are unregulated by BOCRA. Being thus unregulated implies a lack of capacity by BOCRA to exert regulatory discipline on the most influential media, possibly leading to lack of uniformity of standards,” BIDPA research read.

It is said already OP has summoned Mass media leadership for a meeting to discuss how the elections will be covered, with the latest gathering held last month. “But then they (Mass media officials) were told to submit a detailed plan because there are changes on how government wants the elections to be covered. Not only elections in October, but rather the buildup including the debates for candidates in all the 57 constituencies,” said a source close to the developments.

The meetings were called by the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Carter Morupisi to remind the broadcaster of the new changes, says a source. PSP however denies meeting them, “I haven’t met with them about those,” Morupisi said shortly this week when asked about the developments. Going to the last meeting in February, it is said, the broadcasters had already drew a budget as to how much it will cost to cover the elections.

“But the senior government officials objected that saying there is no how they can have a budget without a detailed plan because it is the proposal that informs the budget. So they have been told to bring the plan, thereafter budget will be agreed,” an informant who preferred anonymity said. “The coverage plan has guidelines already as they are told there should not be any bias in the buildup to the elections especially debates and even during the elections period. This was informed by a new regulation from BOCRA and pressure from other stakeholders including Ombudsman,” added the informant this week.

The new Act which seeks to ensure a free and fair election states that, “the Authority shall, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, develop a code of conduct for broadcasting during an election period.” The amended Act and guidelines also aim to restrict political parties from advertising news feeds during elections; restrict the use of foreign news feeds as well as the involvement of foreign governments in election campaigns. The Act states that licensed broadcaster shall not be obliged to broadcast a party-political notice.  A licensee shall not broadcast a party-political notice exceeding three minutes for every 60 minutes of a programme.

“A licensee shall broadcast a party-political notice outside an election period.  A licensee shall not broadcast any political notice immediately before or after item or current affairs programme. A party political notice shall not include any political-party manifesto content, party slogan or campaign message,” the Act states.

In his report to the accusations directed to Btv biasness, Makgonatsotlhe stated that indeed Btv has been giving the ruling party an undue advantage by their unbalanced coverage of political party activities and the documents (Btv mandate and editorial guidelines) provided by the respondents (Btv management) clearly supports the claim. He observed that it resulted in injustice to other political parties and those with an interest in Botswana’s political sphere as they were denied the opportunity to compete fairly with the ruling party.

The report followed a complaint filed with the public protector’s office by Botswana National Front (BNF) Vice President Dr Rev Prince Dibeela. Makgonatsotlhe added that Btv’s coverage of political party activities does not meet the requirements of balance, equity and inclusiveness as set out under mandate and guidelines. He says such needs to be corrected in order for Btv to play its role properly and effectively. In terms of percentages, he says 82 percent coverage is for the BDP while 18 percent is for the combined opposition.

Despite all the recommendations, by far, BDP is still getting a better coverage on state media in the buildup to the elections. However this could now be water under bridge if after the implementation of new BOCRA regulations. In the last elections in 2014, BDP decided not to take part in the Gabz FM organized debates a move that was criticized by political observers saying it was opportunity for the party to clear some policies.

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BDP decides Balopi’s fate

22nd November 2021
Balopi

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Central Committee (CC) meeting, chaired by President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi late last month, resolved that the party’s next Secretary-General (SG) should be a full-time employee based at Tsholetsa House and not active in politics.

The resolution by the CC, which Masisi proposed, is viewed as a ploy to deflate the incumbent, Mpho Balopi’s political ambitions and send him into political obscurity. The two have not been on good terms since the 2019 elections, and the fallout has been widening despite attempts to reconcile them. In essence, the BDP says that Balopi, who is currently a Member of Parliament, Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, and a businessman, is overwhelmed by the role.

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BDF-Namibians shootings autopsy report revealed

22nd November 2021
BDF

The Botswana Defence Force (BDF)-Namibians fatal shooting tragedy Inquest has revealed through autopsy report that the BDF carried over 800 bullets for the mission, 32 of which were discharged towards the targets, and 19 of which hit the targets.

This would mean that 13 bullets missed the targets-in what would be a 60 percent precision rate for the BDF operation target shooting. The Autopsy report shows that Martin Nchindo was shot with five (4) bullets, Ernst Nchindo five (5) bullets, Tommy Nchindo five (5) bullets and Sinvula Munyeme five (5) bullets. From the seven (7) BDF soldiers that left the BDF camp in two boats, four (4) fired the shots that killed the Namibians.

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Gov’t confused over Moitoi’s UN job application

22nd November 2021
VENSON MOITOI

The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s decision to apply for the positions of United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and their deputies (DSRSG), has left the government confused over whether to lend her support or not, WeekendPost has established.

Moitoi’s application follows the Secretary-General’s launch of the third edition of the Global Call for Heads and Deputy Heads of United Nations Field Missions, which aims to expand the pool of candidates for the positions of SRSG) and their deputies to advance gender parity and geographical diversity at the most senior leadership level in the field. These mission leadership positions are graded at the Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General levels.

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