Index 2024
79/ 180
Score : 59.78
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
Social indicator
Security indicator
Index 2023
65/ 180
Score : 64.61
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
Social indicator
Security indicator

Botswana has seen a decline in serious abuses against journalists in recent years but many obstacles still hinder their work. 

Media landscape

The state-owned media still fall far short of fulfilling their duty to provide a public news service and continue to be under the government’s influence. A proposal to transform the national radio and TV broadcaster into a more independent public service was recently rejected. There is one state-owned newspaper and 12 privately owned ones, four of which have the same owner, Mmegi Investment Holdings. Three of the five functioning radio stations are privately owned. There are several privately owned TV channels, most of them online, but no community radio stations. 

Political context

Public media are controlled by the government, with the president’s office determining the national broadcaster’s editorial policy. The privately owned broadcast media are supervised by the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA), which reports directly to the government. The allocation of advertising is also managed by the president’s office and is used to exert political pressure on privately owned media outlets. 

Legal framework

The 2008 Media Practitioners Act was repealed in 2022 and replaced by the Media Practitioners’ Association Act, in order to better protect the media’s freedom and independence. But it contains a provision making it obligatory for a journalist or media to be affiliated with a local organisation, which is seen as discriminatory. The law on access to information has yet to see the light of day. The legislative arsenal was reinforced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and now publishing information about the pandemic from any source other than the director of public health or the World Health Organisation (WHO) is punishable by up to five years in prison. 

Economic context

Development of the media is limited by the small size of the advertising market, which is dominated by public procurement notices. Advertising in the media is not regulated and is not allocated equitably but in accordance with the degree to which media outlets toe the government line. State-funded advertising is often misused as a tool for influencing and controlling the many privately owned media that rely on advertising revenue for their survival.  The opposition has accused some privately owned media of being in the pay of the government that had allocated them advertising. The loss of advertising revenue resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic fuelled self-censorship by the media in an attempt to keep advertisers. 

Sociocultural context

Very few women hold positions of responsibility in the media. Only two of Botswana’s 13 newspapers are run by women – The Botswana Gazette and The Voice Newspapers.


After the alarming deterioration of press freedom under former President Ian Khama, the situation has improved significantly since Mokgweetsi Masisi became president in 2018. While journalists are rarely arrested and detained, they are sometimes the victims of police violence, especially during protests. Intelligence services use spyware to eavesdrop on journalists, who are frequent victims of smear campaigns on social media. Journalists’ equipment, including mobile phones, cameras and laptops, are often seized without a warrant or legal basis.