State media under presidential control
Under the previous president, Ian Khama, press freedom declined alarmingly, investigative journalists were arrested, a news website was subjected to a massive cyber-attack and Botswana fell eight places in the World Press Freedom Index from 2013 to 2018. But press freedom violations have declined under his successor, Mokgweetsi Masisi, who has at least given frequent press conferences, unlike Khama, who gave none during his ten years as president. Nonetheless, there is still no law on access to information, which journalists have long been demanding. The state-owned media still fall far short of providing a public news service and continue to be under the government’s sway, to the point that they are now directly supervised from the president’s office. The few privately-owned newspapers depend on advertising that they may or may not receive from the state. Three years after taking office, Masisi has yet to keep his promise to revise draconian laws such as the 2008 Media Practitioners Act, which restricts their freedom to inform, journalists say, and the law on access to information. In fact, the coronavirus pandemic has led to even tougher legislation. Journalists can now be sentenced to up to five years in prison for publishing any information about Covid-19 that has not come from the director of public health services or the WHO. The loss in advertising revenue resulting from the pandemic has also fuelled self-censorship by media trying to keep advertisers. And a decline in income has increased the vulnerability of journalists, making them more likely to take bribes.
39 in 2020
23.56 in 2020