Botswana

Botswana’s positive democratic image was tarnished on May 28, when the government released the Mass Media Communications Draft Bill. The legislation mandated the establishment of a separate broadcasting board, a state newspaper registration system, accreditation procedures, and a legislated press council to be appointed and managed by the Ministry of Information. Protests against the draft bill by international and local media and human rights groups successfully pressured the government to hold a meeting with media representatives on July 3, after which the government agreed to table the bill. A task force comprised of government officials and private press journalists was appointed on July 10 to draft a new mass media communications bill.

While Botswana has a free and vigorous print media, repressive laws regarding sedition, treason, defamation, and presidential powers of deportation remain threats to freedom of expression and political activity. In addition, journalists and individuals have been charged for contravention of clauses of legislation such as the Alarming Publications Act, which prohibits the publication of material that "may create panic or disturb public peace," the National Security Act, which prohibits reporting on classified or confidential information, and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic and Crime Act, which bars the publication of information relating to an ongoing criminal investigation. Two precedent-setting cases currently in Botswana courts invoke the Alarming Publications Act and a law barring defamation or ridicule of the president.

Discussions to end the current government control of the airwaves have been underway since a mass media communications bill was passed last year to allow for private ownership of the broadcast media.