IRI Baseline evaluation findings suggest that the media sector in Botswana has been weakened and under-resourced.
The study added that this has jeopardised performance and could affect public trust in the media.
Researchers state that under the new administration, there is an opportunity for improvement and need to strengthen and train media outlets to ensure that they fully utilise such opportunity to advocate for change by speaking with one voice.
IRI is a US-based non-profit non-partisan international organisation dedicated to advancing freedom and democracy worldwide. It is currently implementing a regional project in Botswana and Malawi focused on strengthening the capacity of media and political parties to counter closing space.
The researchers found that severe under-funding of the private media has had ripple effects, including a decline in quality of reporting, unethical reporting, and collapse in self-regulation of the media industry, which requires support.
IRI researchers found that to ensure economic well-being, media actors are known to self-censor content to avoid economic pressure from the government and avoid loss of private advertisement revenue.
Media responses to government practices are limited and the effectiveness of these are challenged by the lack of financial capacity.
While there was mixed evidence on Botswana’s media’s knowledge and compliance to journalistic standards, balanced reporting, factual reporting and independence of journalists emerged as key areas of non-compliance amongst journalists in Botswana.
IRI found that “while direct censorship of private media is rare, the government has utilised restrictive legislation and economic pressure against private media, which has led to self-censorship. Absence of a Freedom of Information law is a key challenge.
Advocacy efforts on
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) emerged as a trusted stakeholder that could play an active role in advocacy and reviving media institutions. Therefore, a clear need has emerged to strengthen MISA’s capacity to ensure that advocacy and self-regulation efforts are sustainable.
The evaluation also revealed a challenging relationship of distrust between media and political parties in Botswana, with a lot of lack of clarity on the role of media on the part of political parties.
In both countries, convening such actors together and facilitating a conversation about the role of media and political parties in democratic society could help create a common understanding and better relationship amongst such actors. IRI will help stakeholders in Malawi and Botswana address closing democratic space, as it relates to freedom of expression, by focusing on efforts to strengthen the capacity of the media and political parties to (a) enable them to operate despite oppressive conditions, and (b) continue to advocate for increased democratic space.
IRI will connect the media and political parties, strengthen their ties within their countries and across the Southern Africa region, facilitate the sharing of ideas and amplify their advocacy efforts.