Media regulation in democratic Africa
: the case of Botswana

  • Letshwiti Batlhalefi Tutwane

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

This study investigates Botswana’s media regulation in the context of liberal democratic norms and the need to challenge these. Using Postcolonial Theory and the concept of Ideology, it questions this Eurocentric approach to knowledge and suggests alternative approaches. Drawing on this theoretical framework, this thesis argues that Botswana’s respected regulatory approach evinces an African approach to regulation that is at odds with Western epistemology. The thesis investigates the following: (a) how the media in Botswana is regulated generally, (b) if colonial rule has had effect on media policy, (c) if it is possible to theorize on African media regulation outside the dominant Western frame. The thesis establishes that Botswana has got its own unique approach to regulation, influenced by its culture such as respect for elders, communality and public morality. Colonial rule also had major influence with some of its repressive policies and policies still in place. Some of these laws include insult laws, criminal defamation and public order laws, among others. The country has also chosen state broadcasting system over the Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) system and centralizes control in the Office of the President. This enables government to have a lot of influence in the media, much to the dislike of the opposition, trade unions and the private press. On the other hand, a flourishing private press generally enjoys wide freedom to publish without government interference, though it often claims harassment by government authorities. The portfolio of papers included in this thesis demonstrates the difficulty of enforcing a culturally influenced, home grown approach to regulation, alongside a global Western regime of regulation that imposes a foreign regulatory code. The thesis questions this dominant Western epistemology and calls for a more nuanced, de-Westernized conception of media regulation. Within this ideological constraint, Botswana still manages to achieve a regulatory environment that promotes freedom of expression, especially for the private press, anchored by a strong economy. It is this achievement that impresses many observers about democracy in Botswana (BBC, 2018, Botlhomilwe, Sebudubudu & Maripe, 2011). The methodology adopted by this thesis is qualitative, largely a combination of interviews and case law. This study makes original contribution to knowledge in the field of media regulation, not only by providing unique empirical data but also by giving insight into the reputation of Botswana as a beacon of democracy in Africa. By bringing a post-colonial perspective on Botswana, this study contributes an African dimension to a field dominated by Western scholarship.
Date of AwardSep 2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSusana Sampaio-Dias (Supervisor), James Dennis (Supervisor) & Tony Chafer (Supervisor)

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