Botswana: Mass media

Extracted from: Victor Shale 2009 "Chapter 3: Botswana" IN Denis Kadima and Susan Booysen (eds) Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa 1989-2009: 20 Years of Multiparty Democracy, EISA, Johannesburg, 70-71.

Unlike preceding elections, media coverage of electoral campaigns in 2004 was more accommodating of opposition parties. The public media in Botswana is controlled by the government, which determines the type and amount of information the media can disseminate to the public countrywide. The minister of Information and Technology has the overall say concerning the operations of both the public and the private media. In the pre-2004 elections, the public media, including radio stations, television and the Daily News newspaper, was accused of bias towards the BDP and neglect of opposition parties (Sebudubudu & Osei-Hwedie 2005). During between-election periods, the public media is allowed to cover only the President of the Republic, who was also the presidential candidate for the BDP. This is to the advantage of the ruling party and, as a result, opposition parties have objected to the limited public media coverage they receive.

The private media mainly covers opposition campaigns and have been instrumental in exposing scandals committed by BDP officials. As a result, there have been times when the government, using threats (such as not advertising in these newspapers), has forced private media to withdraw such coverage from newspapers, or more generally, to exercise self-censorship. On occasion the government has also threatened to sue the private press. Threats are not attributed to the ruling party only. There have been protestations from opposition parties calling for the private media to censor their editors and reporters who, they alleged, have commercial links to the ruling party and who are biased against opposition parties in their media coverage. Narrow circulation practices and the use of the English language generally limit the role of the private press as appropriate sources for opposition parties to transmit their ideas to voters (Sebudubudu & Osei-Hwedie 2005).

There has been a slight increase of opportunity for inter-party contestation in that the government, after considerable opposition party criticism and pressure, allowed the public media to cover both the ruling and opposition parties. For example, in 2004 radio discussions took place with candidates of all political parties addressing their respective constituents. Botswana Television news also broadcast rallies of both the ruling and opposition parties, as well as debates and presentations of views by representatives of most political parties. The Daily News covered opposition parties' activities. Despite these concessions, the BDP remains the party most covered and male candidates are the most publicised. The head of MISA-Botswana admitted on national television that his organisation had not yet covered women candidates; instead the focus had been on male candidates across all political parties (Sebudubudu & Osei-Hwedie 2005).

Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority

In March of 2019, Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA), under the Communications Regulatory Act of 2012 (No. 19 of 2012) issued out a draft Code of Conduct for Broadcasting during the elections. In July of that year, the draft Code of Conduct was made final.

The purpose of the Code of Conduct is to assist the Authority in carrying out its duty of monitoring and supervising political broadcasting during the election period.

The spirit of the code of conduct is to ensure that accurate, fair and balanced political coverage is given at all times by the broadcasters. Furthermore, the Code of Conduct ensures that broadcasters provide adequate information to the general public on election related news. Hence, the Code of Conduct states that all political party broadcasts be "lawful, honest, decent and be in conformity with the principles of fair competition in business".

Official website

BOCRA: https://www.bocra.org.bw/.

References

SEBUDUBUDU, D & OSEI-HWEDIE, BZ 2005 Democratic Consolidation in SADC: Botswana's 2004 Elections [PDF document], EISA Research Report No 11.

BOTSWANA COMMUNICATIONS REGUULATORY AUTHORITY 2019 Code of Conduct for Broadcasting During Elections. [www] https://www.bocra.org.bw/sites/default/files/FINAL_Broadcasting_Election_Code_of_Conduct_JULY_2019.pdf