The local chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) meets tomorrow (Saturday) to conclude its elections that were postponed last year on account of breach of regulations.
We trust that the local chapter has sorted its house and will pull off a successful election – one devoid of the drama that accompanied the aborted version.
The role of the media cannot be overemphasised. It plays a watchdog role over all the three arms of Government – Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. In the execution of this function, it takes no prisoners, it is non-aligned and will not be captured.
It jealously guards its editorial independence with everything at its disposal. Its first port of call is to fearlessly fight for Truth. Although this appears a subjective reasoning, it is the duty of every media practitioner to rise beyond reproach.
And this can only be surmounted by an aggressive press fraternity that rallies behind a common Ethical Code of Conduct. That is where the real challenge for local media lies. Government has enacted the Media Association Act to replace the reprehensible Media Practitioners’ Act, but of-course the media believes the current Act does not go far enough to affect self-regulation.
The incoming Board of MISA Botswana has its job cut out for it. The election could not have come at a better time, given the recent Review of the Republican Constitution and the report of the Commissioners to the President.
We can only trust that this election will produce a Board that is hands-on, one that will engage all stakeholders, especially the various media adjuncts such as the Editors’ Forum, the Botswana Media and Allied Workers’ Union (BOMAWU), the Freelancers’ Association as well as the Women In News (WIN) Botswana.
Only through multi-stakeholder engagement can MISA - which is by all intents and purposes, an advocacy organisation – manage to influence Media policies. In the meantime, the media union will find space to do collective bargaining on behalf of its members and to secure their welfare.
Sadly, we are alive to the challenges that plague local media. It has lately suffered immense reputational harm with accusations of practitioners being captured; while others are bankrolled by business and political interests.
Once the Media gets its house in order, these accusations will naturally fall away because there will be structures in place to address them and sanction offenders.
We can only wish MISA a drama-free election tomorrow and hope it will usher in a Board that will truly affect professionalism in local media. Post Covid the media environment promises to be rough, it will not be business as usual – transition to digital platforms has caught up with traditional media.
The trick is how will publishers react to these realities; to what extent is the public willing to invest in the creation of a truly public media? Is Botswana ready for monopolies in the media industry or can we truly have media plurality?
These are some of the questions that the new MISA Botswana Board will have to deal with. We wish them Godspeed in the mandate they are about to assume!