Botswana has jumped 4 places in the annual press freedom index by the France-based press freedom-advocacy organisation, Reporters Without Borders RSF. In the 2019 index released Thursday, Botswana is ranked 44 out of 180 countries with a score of 25.09 points, up from 48 in 2018.
Botswana fell during former president Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s administration but the election of President Mokgweetsi Masisi last year raised hopes after specific pledges were made to improve press freedom, RSF observed.
The index ranks 180 countries according to indicators such as media independence, self-censorship, rule of law and transparency. The report states that president Masisi is viewed as more sympathetic to press freedom. “So hopes have been pinned on Mokgweetsi Masisi, who has at least given frequent press conferences since taking office in April 2018, unlike Khama, who gave none during his ten years as president,” states part of the report.
“There is still no law on access to information, which journalists have long been demanding. All the main print, radio and TV media continue to be owned by the state and are controlled by the government, while the few privately-owned newspapers depend on advertising that they may or may not receive from the state. And journalists say their freedom to inform is restricted by the 2008 Media Practitioners Act and many other laws,” the report further adds.
Under former president Khama’s administration, press freedom declined startlingly. “Investigative journalists were arrested, a news website was subjected to a massive cyber-attack, and between 2013 and 2018 Botswana fell eight places in the World Press Freedom Index,” states the report.
The report also states that “Africa registered the smallest deterioration in its regional score in the 2019 Index, but also some of the biggest changes in individual country rankings.’
After a change of government, Ethiopia (110th) freed all of its detained journalists and secured a spectacular 40-place jump in the Index. And it was thanks to a change of government that Gambia (up 30 at 92nd) also achieved one of the biggest rises in this year’s Index.
Published annually by RSF since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index assesses the level of pluralism, media independence, the environment for the media and self-censorship, the legal framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information. It does not evaluate government policy.