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New book delves into Botswana’s journalism

Journalists on privately-owned newspapers in Botswana are doing a pretty good job, but those who work for government-owned media are seen by many people as propagandists.

All journalists in Botswana are hindered in their work by restrictive laws and a government that often refuses to tell people what is going on. These are some of the findings in a new book News in Botswana: themes in contemporary journalism, written by Richard Rooney, associate professor and former Head of the Department of Media Studies at the University of Botswana. It is the most comprehensive book on journalism in Botswana yet published.

Journalism in Botswana is dominated by government-controlled media in both print and broadcasting. Government owns the biggest media houses with the Daily News, Radio Botswana 1 and 2 and Botswana TV. The government also owns the Botswana Press Agency.

Rooney says the government has put considerable resources into the Daily News so it competes unfairly with the independent press. The biggest competitive advantage that the Daily News has is that it does not have normal production overheads, since all these are taken care of from government funds. It also receives hidden government subsidies because it is delivered on government land and air transport as a matter of policy. Unlike private newspapers, the Daily News is delivered free-of-charge to most areas of Botswana and in rural areas it is often the only print media available.

The Daily News competes for advertising and undercuts the rates offered by private media companies. Advertisers prefer the Daily News because they want high circulation to reach the maximum number of people. Private commercial radio stations are also disadvantaged by the government which competes for advertising. Government is the largest employer, business entity and advertiser in Botswana and is not averse to using this to give media it controls commercial advantages and in so doing distort the newspaper market. Rooney says, “Government can and does pull advertising from newspapers it deems to be too critical of its policies and it can coerce companies in the private sector which want to keep in its favour not to advertise.”

News in Botswana: themes in contemporary journalism is available free-of-charge on the Internet at www.academia.edu
In a survey of how media houses support good governance in Botswana, Rooney finds that although freedom of expression is guaranteed in the constitution there are 15 laws in Botswana that can restrict the work of journalists. The worst of these is the Media Practitioners Act of 2008 that allows the government to decide who can and cannot work as a journalist. The Act continues to receive great opposition from media freedom advocates and has yet to be put into operation.

The book reveals that people widely recognise that the Daily News and the state-owned broadcasting outlets have mandates to promote government policy and they favour the coverage of the ruling party the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) over opposition parties. This happens all the time but is especially worrisome at election times when people rely on news media for information about the policies of political parties.

Rooney says that members of civil society in Botswana believe, “The government directly interferes in the editorial content of the Daily News, and engages in unbalanced or propagandist reporting.” He gives an example in 2011 when an article about the Botswana Government giving P1 million to Japan following its devastating tsunami in March 2011 was withdrawn from the Daily News by “higher authorities” as it was felt this would not be welcomed during the then on-going public workers’ strike.

Rooney says some journalists fear the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DISS) that became operational in 2010 because its mandate in defending state security is unclear. People fear the DISS spies on ordinary citizens. Private media in Botswana have reported that employees of government media live in fear that the DISS is monitoring their activities.

There is a big market for newspapers in Botswana and they cater for a wide range of readership needs, from the overtly serious to the decidedly non-serious. However, all newspapers have a common problem, Rooney says. Too many articles originate from government or from staged events and the voices of ordinary Botswana are hardly ever heard in news media, whether newspapers, radio or television.

Rooney’s research suggests a main reason for this is that media houses in Botswana are generally under-resourced, and privately-owned newspapers in particular cannot afford to have large staffs or freelancers throughout the country. They therefore rely on contributors who know that journalists need a constant supply of material to meet their deadlines and therefore go about supplying it. Political parties in Botswana are especially aware of these needs.

He reports on a series of workshops known as the African Media Barometer that asked people what they thought about the quality of journalism in Botswana. They said journalists on privately-owned newspapers were doing a reasonable job but they were hindered by scarcity of resources and deliberate attempts by government officials to withhold information. The lack of resources in media houses means that most content is urban-based with rural areas in effect side-lined by the newspapers.

They said experienced professionals left journalism to enter public relations and communications because they were not growing professionally or were not being paid enough. Rooney reports the workshop participants said reporting in private newspapers was generally fair and was not considered to be “gutter journalism” although accuracy, fairness and balance were sometimes found to be lacking. “Generally, Botswana journalists are not corrupt and have a very high standard of moral integrity,” the workshop participants said. News in Botswana: themes in contemporary journalism, by Richard Rooney. Available to download free-of-charge from www.academia.edu

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WeekendLife

200,000 Members of International Church Hold Virtual Prayer Service for Covid-19

22nd September 2020
200,000

After its initial outbreak with a cluster of pneumonia cases at a seafood, poultry and live wildlife market in Wuhan City, China, Covid-19 has spread rapidly across the globe. The virus has hammered economies worldwide and brought devastation to many.

On 16 September Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a church with thousands of members in various countries, held a global online prayer service to pray for the victims of the coronavirus and their families, healthcare workers, government officials and for the complete eradication of and cure for Covid-19.

The virtual prayer service was live-streamed to the entire congregation with more than 200,000 members in countries all over the world participating, including the USA, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

In keeping with social distancing, health protocols and protecting its members from possible exposure to the coronavirus, Shincheonji arranged the virtual gathering for members to pray together in safety and set an example for others.

Prayers were mainly for the healing of those infected with the virus, for overworked healthcare workers who are struggling to fight Covid-19, and for people in economic distress in the wake of the pandemic. The overwhelming online participation from its members worldwide showed the desire and urgency to end this virus and for healing and restoration in communities.

The Chairman of Shincheonji Church Mr Manhee Lee suggested this online virtual gathering and said that all believers will continue to pray at the church’s worship services until the complete eradication of the coronavirus.

At least 1,700 of the church’s South Korean-based congregation have donated their blood plasma for research around an effective treatment. Convalescent plasma has also showed promise as therapy for Covid-19 and is believed to have reduced the severity of symptoms in critical patients.

“In order to defeat Covid-19, we need to embrace, love, and unite,” as global citizens, the church said. “We wanted to do all we can as believers by praying for the people working to prevent the spread of the virus and healthcare workers who are working at the frontlines of this battle against Covid-19 and we believe that God will answer our earnest prayers.”

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WeekendLife

AFRIMMA nominates Vee Mampeezy

22nd September 2020
Vee-Mampeezy

The annual prestigious music awards, African Muzik Magazine Awards and Music Festival (AFRIMMA), has resumed this year. But this time around with a virtual version of it.

The awards that celebrate the originality of African music has unveiled their seventh edition. The awards seek to promote the African talent by bringing together on the same stage African legendary artists to celebrate African culture.

The event was established by the International Committee of AFRIMMA, in collaboration with African Union to reward and celebrate musical works, talents and creativity around the African continent while promoting the African cultural heritage amongst African countries.

However after the Covid-19 global pandemic, the event will not be hosted on a live global stage, but it will be hosted virtually and nominees are expected to deliver their performances virtually. The AFRIMMA Virtual Awards 2020 is set to be the first of its kind in the African music world with performances coming from different artists around the world and audience catching the performances, speeches and award presentations on multiple streaming devices.

Amongst the many who are nominated by the AFRIMMAs is local sensation Vee Mampeezy who has been nominated in the category for Best Male Southern African alongside music giants, Black Coffee- South Africa, Slap Dee – Zambia, Cassper Nyovest- South Africa, Master KG- South Africa, Jah Prayzah – Zimbabwe, Vee Mampeezy – Botswana, Shyn – Madagascar, Tshego- South Africa, Tha Dogg – Namibia and Yanga Chief – South Africa.

Mampeezy has established with WeekendLife that prior to that, he had received an email from AFRIMMA confirming his nomination. They wished for him to perform which he said he will confirm the performance first with his manager, but as for now he is not sure if he will be performing.

“We have accepted the nomination. It is such an honour to be nominated alongside music giants like Black Coffee. I am very excited, others I am not as excited to be nominated alongside them because I have been nominated before with them. I do not mean to say they are not great, they are great in their respective right,” he said.

“We should be excited as a country that Botswana has been nominated as well. Before anything else, the fact that we are there as nominees makes us winners. It is such an honour to be recognised more so that Botswana is a small country with a very small population.”

Famous and most decorated artists the likes of Diamond Platnumz, Mr Flavour, Harmonize, Davido and Jah Prayzah are also amongst the nominees. However, South African based artist affectionately known as Master KG has been nominated six times for Video of the year, Best Male Southern Africa, Artist of the year, Best Collaboration as well as song of the year.

Master KG’s song ‘Jerusalem’ has been making waves internationally, and it was used mostly during the pandemic to shake off the Covid-19 anxiety. The song was nominated after South African Music Awards (SAMA) failed to nominate the young talented artist.

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WeekendLife

Miss Earth Botswana catwalks to save the environment

22nd September 2020
MISS EARTH

Miss Earth Botswana is an annual local environmental-themed beauty pageant competition promoting environmental awarenessconservation and social responsibility. The reigning Queen dedicated her year to promoting specific projects and often addressing issues concerning the environment.

The Queen does this through school tours, tree planting activities, street campaigns, coastal clean ups, speaking engagements, shopping mall tours, media guesting, environmental fairs, storytelling programs to children, eco-fashion shows, and other environmental activities.

Even though this auspicious year has been faulted by the COVID-19 crisis, Miss Earth Botswana 2020 Seneo Perry has seen this as a chance to fix her crown, and get dirty in conserving the environment. This is highly impressive as it expresses how dedicated she is not only in wearing the crown, but putting in some work to create a better greener world.

Perry is a Botswana based environmentalist, equipped with a degree in Entrepreneurial Business Leadership from Sheffield Hallam University (BAC) and a top 5 finalist in Miss Earth Botswana 2019. As an eco-warrior at heart, she has dedicated her time and energy towards educating and empowering the next generation on the importance of preservation and careful management of the environment and natural resources (a clean and safe environment.)

Miss Earth Botswana will be hosting SOS Children for a film documentary dubbed “Into the Okavango” on Saturday 19th September, in Tlokweng. This initiative is influenced by National Vision 2036 Pillar of National Values which is our identity, our unique natural and cultural resources, tolerance of diversity as well as national values constitute a value preposition that makes Botswana a place to live, work and do business.

In an exclusive interview with WeekendLife, Perry’s Manager, Shimah Keakopa, said the purpose of this event is to encourage the children to open up their minds a bit more to think outside the box as they are about to choose their career paths and what more they can offer to their country as upcoming young leaders.

“This event is held under the theme ‘‘Botswana will have healthy ecosystems that support the economy, livelihoods and our cultural heritage as well as enhance resilience to climate change’’. We strive to help young children grow up knowing their purpose in life and what they actually do in achieving their ambitions.”

For her part, the queen said since 2013, conservation topics have always attracted her interests towards achieving a clean and safe environment for the benefit of humanity. She said “Botswana relies heavily on the tourism industry as it contributes 7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Our tourism industry has been characterized as more of a fauna and flora type, which is the great attraction to local and international tourists.”

“Therefore it is imperative that we conserve and continuously engage in environmental issues, to preserve our untouchable pristine wilderness. Furthermore people who live closest to natural resources generally absorb the greatest cost associated with conservation,” she said.

Perry told WeekendLife that a lot still needs to be done to ensure everybody is of one mind in an effort dedicated towards environmental conservation, which not only benefits the flora and fauna but the economy as well through activities such as agriculture and tourism.

“In Botswana, there still not enough policies (some outdated) and public awareness towards environmental conservation, especially the collective effort that should exist between government, private sector and Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

Whereas members of the general public do not have adequate access to the information on the importance of environmental conservation and this results in them being unaware of the best practices and standards in environmental conservation,” she said.

When she is not impressing at beauty pageants, Perry is a Managing Director of “Restoring the Prime Colour of the Earth” a charitable organization established in 2019 with the objective to educate both young and old people the importance of keeping a clean and safe environment and to restore the breath-taking landmarks in Botswana.

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