Botswana | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Botswana

Botswana

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

35

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

16

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

11

Status change explanation: Botswana's rating moved from Free to Partly Free in 2005 following the expulsion of two journalists amid a more general climate of official intolerance for critical views.

Freedom of speech and of the press are provided for in the constitution; although the government generally respects these rights in practice, 2005 saw a marked deterioration in freedom of expression in Botswana. Libel is a civil offense, and in past years publications have been charged with defamation and have had to pay large amounts of money in court-ordered damages or as part of a settlement. The National Security Act (NSA), enacted in 1986 during Botswana's conflict with apartheid South Africa, remains on the books and has been used to restrict reporting on government activities. Journalists are occasionally threatened, harassed, or attacked in retaliation for their reporting. In August 2005, the government employed immigration legislation to deport two Zimbabwean journalists, Rodrick Mukumbira and Charles Chirinda, who had criticized state policies; both were not given specific reasons for their expulsion. In a similar indication that the government was becoming less tolerant of those expressing critical views, Kenneth Good, an Australian-born academic who criticized as undemocratic certain elements of Botswana's political system, was charged under the NSA and deported in May 2005, a move that was roundly condemned by freedom of expression advocates.

Independent print media and radio stations provide vigorous scrutiny of the government and air a wide range of opinions, mostly without government interference. However, the state-owned Botswana Press Agency dominates the media landscape via its Daily News newspaper and two nationally broadcast FM radio stations; radio remains the chief source of news for the majority of the population. Botswana Television, also owned by the state, is the country's only source of local television news. Government-controlled media outlets generally confine themselves to coverage that is supportive of official policies and do not adequately cover the activities or viewpoints of opposition parties and other critics. The government sometimes censors or otherwise restricts news sources or stories that it finds undesirable, and editorial interference in the state-owned media from the Ministry of Communication, Science, and Technology has increased in recent years. The November 2003 suspension of Radio Botswana's popular call-in segment of the morning show Masa-a-sele remained in effect at year's end; in July 2004, the ministry announced the cancellation of the same station's daily newspaper review segment. Privately owned radio stations and the sole private television station have a limited reach, particularly within the rural districts. The financial viability of Botswana's independent newspapers is undermined by the fact that the Daily News is distributed nationwide at no cost. Internet access is unrestricted, though access is limited because of financial constraints.