See also:
» 16.01.2009 - Journalists organisation criticises new media law
» 10.11.2008 - New regional news agency services launched
» 26.10.2006 - Botswana state media "muzzled" in San expulsion affair
» 12.04.2006 - Botswana moves forward with controversial media law
» 21.04.2005 - New Botswana media bill to curb biased reporting
» 11.08.2004 - Botswana Minister interfering in state media
» 13.01.2004 - Women demand gender equality in Batswana media
» 18.11.2003 - Govt editorial interference in Batswana broadcasters

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Media in Botswana assured of further freedom

afrol News, 22 March - The Batwsana Minister in charge of national media, Pelonomi Venson, has assured the independent press that government will not start discriminating practices, as had been feared. Authorities and state companies also in future would run advertisements in all media. Ms Venson also is to present a new mass media bill and broadcasting policy, which will liberalise the sector further.

Communications, Science and Technology Minister Venson, who was briefing the Gaborone Parliament on the public media, emphasised that all government ministries and departments are and will remain free to choose the medium they consider relevant to run their advertisements, and there are no plans to devise criteria on regulating advertising. She thus answered to concern raised by independent media lately, fearing a new discriminatory policy.

The Minister said that, when selecting a medium, government, like all purchasers of advertising space, was guided by certain factors such as circulation, coverage and quality of the newspapers and broadcasting organisations that sell advertising. "As with all other commodities, with advertising the purchaser must be allowed freedom to choose," said Ms Venson.

Ms Venson's statement came in response to an inquiry from MP Botsalo Ntuane, who had asked whether the Minister was considering devising a criterion that would ensure that government advertising from all ministries and departments was distributed fairly and equitably to all private newspapers and broadcasting organisations.

There had for years been speculations whether the purchase of advertising space by Botswana's government in media would be regulated, creating fears that media criticising government could be discriminated against. Speculations started in May 2001, as editors of the 'Botswana Guardian' and the 'Midweek Sun' intercepted a memorandum in which the Permanent Secretary in Botswana's Ministry of Communications was communicating, to para-state organisations and departments in his ministry, a decision purportedly taken by Cabinet to withdraw advertising from the 'Botswana Guardian' and the 'Midweek Sun' newspapers.

A week later another memo surfaced 'outlawing' purchase of the two newspapers by government departments, public libraries, national archives and other government departments. Since that, the two newspapers have successfully challenged the ban in court, according to researcher Zoé Titus from the Windhoek-based Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA).

Minister Venson also made further announcements regarding Botswana's media policy in the Gaborone parliament. The cabinet of President Festus Mogae was currently consulting to pave the way for the adoption of a broadcasting policy, Ms Venson revealed. She said the policy was a product of the National Broadcasting Board based on extensive consultations with various stakeholders such as the private media.

The Communications Minister was to present a mass media bill and broadcasting policy as products of holistic, universal and democratic consultations. She said the Mass Media Bill would give legal powers and authority to the Press Council of Botswana to perform its functions better.

Her ministry, she said, was trying to bring professionalism into the public media and was not introducing any laws or regulations inconsistent with the dictates of the Constitution or that undermined freedom of expression and democracy in general. Ms Venson said the ministry was already now actively engaged in the establishment and improvement of standards and professionalism in the media through the Media Advisory Council.

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