The Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration will have a Media Monitoring Unit established within it, according to new ministerial portfolio responsibilities published in the Government Gazette this week.
A Films Control Censor Board will also be established under the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, a move that is seen as a way of continuing to deny media freedom of expression through censorship.
This development is “Regrettable” according to University of Botswana Law Lecturer, Dr. Tachilisa Balule, as it demonstrates government’s keen willingness to continue frustrating media freedom.
“Government should come out clear to say exactly what they mean when they say they are going to monitor media. Why should government play big brother to the media. To me it sounds like their role would just be to censor the media,” he said.
He added that the Films Censor Board would be welcome if it exists to oversee content put in films. “If they will be there to advice on content, for example warnings to be included in movies not suitable for minors, that will be acceptable, but not if, they are going to use it to censor film makers and their content. If it is created for that purpose then that is a problem,” Dr. Balule said.
Meanwhile, Government Spokesperson; Jeff Ramsay says the unit’s mandate will only be to read newspapers and respond where they find necessary. “The unit will be for what it says it’s for, to monitor media, nothing else. There is no government in the world that does not monitor media.” Ramsey however said the unit is not yet established.
He also said the Films Control Censor Board was necessary as Botswana does not have a film commission that will advise on relevant policies for the industry.