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President Khama has not been a friend to the media. (Reuters)

For Batswana journalists, news that their South African colleagues are busy warding off a proposed statutory media tribunal from the ruling African National Congress sounds all too familiar. For more than a decade, the government of Botswana has been trying to push a media law that would effectively shift the whole media under state control.

This was eventually achieved as in December 2008, the Media Practitioners Act came to being after being pushed through parliament by the dominant ruling Botswana Democratic party. The implementation of the act has however been frustrated by fierce advocacy by Botswana media groups, with the key assistance of the Law Society of Botswana, which also refused to participate in the implementation as required.

At least three journalists a month flee their home countries to escape threats of violence, imprisonment, or harassment. By Elisabeth Witchel and Karen Phillips
AUGUST 2, 2005
Posted: August 17, 2005

Rodrick Mukumbira, Ngami Times, Agence France-Presse, IRIN

The government sent a July 27 letter to Mukumbira, a Zimbabwean national who had been working in Botswana since 2002, revoking his work and residence permits and ordering him to leave the country within seven days, according to the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA). He was forced to leave the country on August 2, the journalist told CPJ. Mukumbira was a news editor for the Ngami Times in northwest Botswana and a correspondent for international news media, including Agence France-Presse and the UN-affiliated IRIN.

Your Excellency: The Committee to Protect Journalists is troubled by your government's recent expulsion of Rodrick Mukumbira, a Zimbabwean national who had been working as a journalist in Botswana since 2002. Local press freedom groups have expressed concern that the expulsion may be linked to his work.

Although the Kenya-based East African Standard, one of Africa's oldest continuously published newspapers, marked its 100th anniversary in November, journalism remains a difficult profession on the continent, with adverse government policies and multifaceted economic woes still undermining the full development of African media.
Though journalists and human rights observers generally consider the independent press in Botswana free, the government proved in 2002 that it is unwilling to tolerate negative coverage from state media.
Hopes were high in July that Ivory Coast's political crisis would end after a judge in the capital, Abidjan, confirmed that former prime minister Alassane Dramane Ouattara, the leader of the opposition Rally for Republicans (RDR), is an Ivory Coast citizen.

Silence reigned supreme in Eritrea, where the entire independent press was under a government ban and 11 journalists languished in jail at year's end. Clamorous, deadly power struggles raged in Zimbabwe over land and access to information, and in Burundi over ethnicity and control of state resources. South Africa, Senegal, and Benin remained relatively liberal from a press freedom perspective, while corruption and fear pervaded newsrooms in Mozambique and Togo.

Botswana is generally considered a model of peace and stability in southern Africa, and its press, though relatively small, is vibrant and outspoken. Relations between the government and the press were strained this past year, however, as officials tried to influence editorial policy and cooperated less with independent journalists.
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