The local media industry has been unsettled by reports of an “unofficial” Government Memorandum instructing all departments and Parastatals to only advertise with Media houses approved by Government.
The Directive was allegedly issued by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning but neither BOBS Marketing Manager Peter Mpete nor CEDA chief executive Thabo Thamane knew or had seen the Memo. Both men promised to continue advertising with different media houses in order to spread their messages across the country as has been the practice and to seek clarity on the Memo when it does reach them. The same sentiments were expressed by Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Local Enterprise Authority, Masego Madabika who had also not seen the Memo. But Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi had a different version to his subordinates about the memo. “That Memo you are talking about is unofficial. It is not the position of the government. It is misrepresenting it.
We will continue working with all media houses,” said Morupisi. Pressed for clarification Morupisi hung up. Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has vowed to tackle the issue head on. It said in a statement that the plan was a carbon copy of the 2001 court case in which The Botswana Guardian and Midweek Sun had challenged Government’s use of advertising as a weapon against private media. The court declared government’s withdrawal of advertisement patronage from the newspaper in order to express the limit of editorial freedom amounted to an infringement of the applicant’s freedom of expression and therefore unconstitutional.
Botswana Gazette Advertising Manager, Goitseone Senwelo told BG that they had not yet received the Memo, but have heard rumours about it. “Their withdrawal will affect our sales as they have always contributed much as opposed to the corporate /private companies advertising. Once we are formally notified, we will meet and discuss it internally to see how we can go about it. However, from our observation the past two or three issues the adverts from government have not been coming as much as anticipated,” said Senwelo. Accountant at Botswana Guardian, Lechedzani Kenosi said it is unfortunate that government is repeating the same mistake.
“It shows that government wants to silence us when we are telling the truth. If they felt aggrieved with what has been written in newspapers they should complain to the Press Council rather than to take this drastic decision,” he said adding that they’d seek redress with the courts if push comes to shove.