|Official Country Name:||Republic of Botswana|
|Region (Map name):||Africa|
Background and General Characteristics
Botswana (bot-SWA-na) is a landlocked country in southern Africa, which used to be known as Bechuanaland. It covers 224,610 square miles, making it slightly bigger than Texas. Botswana is bordered by South Africa to the south, Zimbabwe to the northeast, Zambia to the north, and Namibia to the west and north.
In the 1800s, Bechuanaland became a British protectorate, meaning that it was under the protection and control of Britain. After undergoing a series of governmental structures, including the use of white and black advisory councils, in 1965 the county attained self-government, with Sereste Khama as its first African head of government. After further successful negotiations with Britain, on September 30, 1966, the former Bechuanaland became the sovereign Republic of Botswana, with Khama as the new president. In the early 20th century, Botswana was one of the truly democratic African countries. The 1.6 million citizens of this sparsely populated semi-desert country have enjoyed democratic freedoms found in few other African countries.
In the early twenty-first century, there were four print news media outlets in Botswana. The Botswana Daily News , published in English and Setswana, was established in 1964. With a circulation in the 25,000 to 50,000 range, it was the country's largest newspaper in 2002. Below it, with circulations from 10,000 to 25,000, were the Botswana Guardian , an English weekly established in 1982; The Botswana Gazette , another English weekly; and Mmegi wa Digmang (The Reporter), also a weekly, published in English and Setswana, established in 1984. The Daily News , Mmegi wa Digmang , and the Botswana Guardian were Botswana's largest and most influential newspapers. The Daily News was state owned. The others were privately owned.
The Botswana independence constitution of September 1966 (amended in August and September 1997) guaranteed freedom of expression to all residents. Unlike many African countries, where the ruling party bans opposition views and news from newspapers, radio and television, Botswana has allowed a diversity of views and allowed robust debate in the electronic and print media. As of 2002, journalists were not licensed or required to register. Newspapers and journalists did not have to post bonds to do their work. There was no censorship, but journalists operated according to community standards by avoiding material that would be considered obscene or offensive. Foreign media and journalists also operated freely and openly. The University of Botswana was establishing a Department of Journalism, which will provide training.
In 2002, Botswana television offered MultiChoice Botswana and Gaberone Television. The latter was owned by Gaberone Broadcasting Corp. and was a private television channel that reached about 20 percent of the population. South African television was also accessible in most of Botswana. As of the early twenty-first century, however, radio remained the most common means of mass communication in Botswana. The number of radio receivers increased from 180,000 in 1994 to 230,000 in 1996, while the number of television receivers rose from 24,000 to 29,000 during the same period. Government-owned Radio Botswana broadcast in English, the official language, and Setswana. Its work was complemented by Radio Botswana 2, an FM channel accessible only in Gaberone, the country's capital. There were also two private radio stations: GABZ-FM and VA RONA-FM.
The Botswana Press Agency (BOPA) is a government-owned domestic news agency. Foreign news agencies, including the South African Press Association and Reuters, have operated freely in the country.
The Botswana print media are robust, operate with little or no government restrictions and relations with the government are good. The broadcast media are government controlled, but are not abused by government officials. For the first 26 years of Botswana's independence, democracy has prevailed, and the future looks bright for the media.
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Tendayi S. Kumbula