The long-awaited controversial Media Practitioners Bill is scheduled to be tabled in Parliament during the winter session next month.

This was revealed by Assistant Minister for State President, Dumezweni Mthinkhulu this week. Mthimkhulu said the expectation is that the Bill will be passed during the same session.

He stated that in place of the Media Practitioners Act of 2008, they are considering options including self-regulation of the media.

He said that the government has commenced consultations with the media with the intention of enhancing media vibrancy in the country. “On our agenda is the intention to repeal the Media Practitioner’s Act 2008,” Mthimkhulu revealed. He noted that this process is at an advanced stage, and various media bodies and academia have submitted proposals.

He indicated that it is the government’s firm belief that the media is a partner that can contribute to advancing the democratic credentials of the nation. The assistant minister revealed that in related matters, the Freedom of Information Bill, which is a popular demand of the media, is also being worked on.

Mthimkhulu’s statement comes after Minister Kabo Morwaeng indicated last year that the Bill will be tabled in Parliament during the Budget Speech Session in February this year.

Mthimkhulu who was addressing a workshop on Digital Rights and Freedom of Expression in Gaborone said it is clear, therefore, that the media and government have a lot to benefit from working together and maintaining mutual relations. "I hope that the discussions within this training will maintain the same stance and attitude demonstrated by bodies such as Botswana Editors Forum, MISA Botswana, and BOMAWU, who have all had a hand in suggesting what a new media law for Botswana should be like," Mthimkhulu added.

He indicated that the Government presents itself as ready and willing to work with the media to ensure that the public is kept enlightened, informed, and educated on important matters of national interest.

“I have come here to reiterate and assure you all of this government’s commitment to maintaining and promoting media freedom.

“By all means necessary, and as far as possible, you will always have our full support as the ‘Fourth Estate.’

"We hold the firm belief that in you we have a fraternity with whom we can work harmoniously together on matters of mutual concern for the benefit of our people,” Mthimkhulu said.

Mthimkhulu who is also MP for Gaborone South pointed out that nobody can deny the crucial role of the media and journalists in promoting and consolidating healthy democracies.

“However, this delicate function cannot be exercised optimally unless you, as media practitioners, are enlightened in all relevant areas that you report on.

“Therefore, this workshop will go a long way in preparing you all to report on matters of digital security, safety, and surveillance. It is my expectation that you will all emerge better equipped to report on these complex subjects that are a major feature of the lives that we lead in today’s tech-driven world.

“Because of the importance that I see in this kind of training, I implore you all to make hay while the sun shines by taking full advantage of all that is to be taught in order to enhance your own capabilities.” The assistant minister said the cause for media freedom and excellence is an important one for every society in the world.

"We all ought to contribute in one way or the other to ensuring that the media operates in an environment conducive for their work," he said, adding that the Government is fully aligned in this regard.

Mthimkhulu told the workshop that nevertheless, it is equally important that in the exercise of the powers to investigate and report, journalists should do it while fully equipped and adequately knowledgeable about the area in which they are reporting.

“It is my belief that when you are equipped with the requisite skills and knowledge, you will produce world-class media reports that help to build our communities".