MEDIA REFLECTS ON INFORMATION AS A PUBLIC GOOD
Botswana Editors Forum (BEF) in collaboration with Media Freedom Committee hosted the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day under the theme Information as a Public Good.
The UN General Assembly proclaimed world Press Freedom Day in 1993 as an annual commemoration on May 3rd.
In Gaborone the day was commemorated on Tuesday with discussions around access to information, digital media and regulatory policies.
The panelists for the debate were MISA Chairperson Mboki Chilisa, the Director Botswana Communication Regulatory Authority, (BOCRA) Aaron Nyelesi and Lecturer Media Studies at the University of Botswana Dr Motiola Adioje.
Executive Director Media Freedom, World Association of Newspapers (WANIFRA) Andrew Heslop also delivered a speech.
Chilisa said MISA has always advocated for the importance of giving the media access to information.
He said this is very critical in terms of ensuring credible stories particularly for digital platforms, which are now the preferred form of media consumption.
From a policy point of view, Nyelesi said as a regulator they are responsible for giving licenses to broadcasters and monitor performance to ensure they operate in accordance with the terms and conditions subscribed for.
He further noted that for something to qualify as a public good it has to be non-rivalry and non-excludable.
Nyelesi said the ICTs they regulate enhance the ability for media to reach out more than it has been doing under the conventional set-up.
“Now the media ride on ICT to be consumed by different audiences across the world. However, ICTs has also brought a challenge from a regulatory point of view. With an advent of mobile technology and camera-ready devices we now have everybody potentially as a journalist and whatever they come across they share with the public as allegedly news. This is a big challenge because a lot of us don’t subscribe to principles and ethics that trained journalists subscribe to. Commercial broadcasting is not growing as accepted because it is an expensive venture to go into,” said Nyelesi
One of the panelists, Adioje said Botswana couldn’t speak of a knowledge-based economy if the country does not promote access to information.
“When Ccvid-19 started, there were some people who thought it was a hoax and but the media shared information and sensitised people that Corona virus was not only real but deadly too. As the public we need to be educated enough to know the difference between authentic and fake news.” Said Dr Adioje.
She said a syllabus crafted around print and broadcasting was proving to be a challenge now that digital was here.
“Today, everyone is a journalist, they can record and publish any information and mostly likely mislead the public,” said Adioje.
Meanwhile Heslop highlighted the immense challenges that print has struggled under over the past 12 months as media houses grappled with both advertising and sales decline due to Ccvid-19 outbreak.
This however, Heslop noted could be an opportunity for media to work on their digital migration and monetisation.
During a segment which gave the audience a chance to reflected on the many issues faced by the during the pandemic former MISA Chairperson, Modise Maphanyane decried how media advocacy role was not put out there as much as it is supposed to be.
He said the theme for the day was not necessarily about the media but the society at large and went on to emphasise the need for the media to play a role of safeguarding the society by providing comprehensive reporting on many issues that are currently not not adequately reported on like Ccvid-19 vaccine.
KBL, The Voice Newspaper, Sunday Standard and Staybridge Golf-view sponsored the event.