This is one of the African countries that allow most press freedom, even if the authorities still monitor the state news media closely. Economic constraints could reduce press diversity in the short term.
The activities of the news media are concentrated in urban areas. The market is dominated by weeklies and the only daily, the state-owned Daily News, is distributed free of charge throughout the country by state services. Hitherto financed solely from government revenue, the Daily News began competing with the privately-owned press for advertising in 2003. The privately-owned media "depend on advertising revenue to survive so this change is going to kill off alternative voices," the editor of one weekly said.
Market weakness has encouraged consolidation, and just a few investors now control most of the sector. A single company now owns four weeklies and one of the two privately-owned radio stations. The only TV station, set up in 2000, is entirely controlled by the government.
An independent press council was set up at the government’s request in February 2003. Its job is to ensure that the news media are protected against threats and obstacles to their work and respect a code of professional conduct.
The opposition accused communication minister Boyce Sebetela of tightening control of the state-owned news media at the end of 2003. The Botswana National Front (BNF) said it was shocked by the national radio station’s decision to drop the morning programme "Masa-a-sele," in which listeners were able to call in and express their views. Others voiced concern about a shakeup at the top of the state news media and the unexplained departure of those in charge of news programming at the national radio and TV companies.
Two journalists physically attacked
Booster Galesekegwe, a photographer with the weekly Mmegi, was attacked by tribal chief Tawana Moremi while taking shots in a restaurant in Gaborone on 6 September 2003, and his equipment was smashed. When the newspaper’s editor, Kagiso Sekokonyane, went to the restaurant on being told about the attack, he was also beaten and insulted by Moremi.
Harassment and obstruction
Ten Chinese construction companies sued the Botswana Gazette for libel on 6 July 2003, claiming 10 million pulas (1.8 million euros) in damages for a report a fews days earlier that Mogolori Modisi, the vice-president of the Confederation of Trade, Industry and Labour, had complained of unfair competition from Chinese companies getting financial support from the government. The Chinese also called on the newspaper to publish a retraction and apologies. The case was still pending at the end of the year.