Media legislation reforms


Press invitiation for MISA Lesotho press conference on media reforms

Press invitiation for MISA Lesotho press conference on media reforms

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Lesotho Chapter) has developed a Position Paper for the ongoing multi-sector reforms, which include the media.

The Position Paper outlines MISA Lesotho’s proposed critical areas of consideration for media reforms. The document also acts as a tool that MISA Lesotho will use to advocate for change that the media needs.

You are, therefore, cordially invited to a press conference to unpack the document at MISA Lesotho premises in Happy Villa, House No. 1B, Maseru, on Wednesday 26th June 2019, at 14h00 (2:00pm).

Press Conference


Photo: SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images

Lesotho: Way forward in 2018

Celebrating World Press Freedom Day 2018

MISA Lesotho is sharing its recommendations for improving media freedom and freedom of expression in Lesotho in commemoration of World Press Freedom Day 2018. You can also download a PDF copy to print and share.


LAWS AND REGULATIONS

Participate in the development of legal reforms recommended by SADC

In 2015, the Southern Africa Development Community recommended large-scale reforms in Lesotho, including the constitution and information and media law. Lesotho’s media sector and civil society, as well as international donors, should play an active role in informing the development of new laws that may impact the media, freedom of expression or access to information. They should also lobby for a legal framework governing the media in line with international standards.

Push for the interim broadcasting code to be turned into a permanent law

Government should enact the interim broadcasting code. This, among other things, mandates independent mechanisms for dispute resolution and requires editors to have a relevant journalistic background.

Establish a self-regulating press council

Media organisations should cooperate to establish a self-regulating media body for both broadcast, print and online media based on best-practice examples in the region. Lesotho’s broadcasting sector is currently regulated by the Communications Act, whereas print and online media have no regulatory body.


COOPERATION

Unite media houses to protect freedom of expression and media freedom

Media managers in Lesotho need to come together and collectively engage and lobby government on common issues regarding freedom of expression and the safety of journalists.


CAPACITY BUILDING

Develop the media’s lobbying and advocacy skills

Media development organisations should help media managers acquire negotiating and advocacy skills in order to engage with the government.


MEDIA PROFESSIONALISATION

Provide training and mentoring for journalists

Media organisations in Lesotho frequently employ untrained journalists and fail to provide them with on-the-job training or guidance. This lack of journalism skills leads to poor quality reporting that fails to meet basic professional standards. Media outlets need to support and guide their journalists. Media development organisations should consider developing longer-term projects that incorporate on-the-job mentoring.


And you can also take a look at the Way Forward 2018 recommendations for MISA Malawi, MISA Zimbabwe and MISA Zambia


MISA Lesotho National Director Mr Tsebo Matsasa and MISA Lesotho General Secretary Billy Ntaote

MISA Lesotho meets Lesotho Parliament Portfolio Committee on legal reforms

On Thursday 01 February, 2018, MISA Lesotho addressed the Lesotho Parliament Portfolio Committee of theLaw and Public Safety Cluster on theestablishment of a National Reforms Commission Bill of 2018.

The occasion that was cast live on Lesotho Television and Facebook Live (Refer to MISA Lesotho Facebook page) occurred at the National Assembly of Lesotho Chamber with key issue being mainstreaming of media in the bill to ensure that the commission will achieve development of laws on media freedom.

MISA Lesotho delegation brought to attention of the committee that the bill’s objective omitted media reforms as opposed to SADC categorically recommending that the reforms should include information and media.

Therefore the delegation submission to the committee was that the bill should have, under section on Objectives of the Bill, a clause that reads as follows;

“Media sector is strengthened to have law that facilitates repeal of draconian laws on the media and provide for establishment of strong institutions to self and co-regulate the sector while it operates in a free and conducive environment.“

MISA Lesotho argues that inclusion of the clause is important as it ensures that the commission comes up with media law as the sector is operating under legislation that is not in step with internationally recommended standard and principles of the media.

According to MISA Lesotho the reforms presents an opportunity to realize media policy advocacy that the organization has been engaged in for over a decade without success.

“It will therefore be one of important indicators of success for the reforms to come up with a law that responses to the interests, needs, rights and freedoms of the media for the betterment of the people of Lesotho”, so said Tsebo Mats’asa, National Director of MISA Lesotho.

Another major submission was that bill should, under Commission’s Secretariat that will ensure publicity and information management of the Commissions activities as it that will address political polarization in the Lesotho media.

MISA Lesotho argued that of such a department should be well equipped with professional and efficient staff so that they do only provide information to the nation, but also monitor media reports to make sure that commission’s work is no jeopardized by unprofessional reporting which had landed Lesotho to political instability that led to legal reforms..

Legal Reforms project for the government of Lesotho was recommended by Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to restore peace, stability, rule of law, good governance and media freedom.

MISA Lesotho delegation comprised of Chairperson Mr. Boitume loKoloi, Secretary Billy Ntaote, Treasurer Celinah Leteketa and National Director Tsebo Mats’asa


Media legal reforms are long overdue in Lesotho

In Lesotho, there are laws that include sections protecting freedom of expression and the media. However, major weaknesses in the laws include that media and journalists’ rights and freedoms may be taken away in the interest of defence, public safety, order, morality and health. Some of the current legislation has limitation clauses that are argued to be incompatible with internationally accepted standards.

Despite the growth and vibrancy of the media sector in Lesotho, it is jeopardised by presence of insult and criminal libel laws, which were outlined by some studies as disproportionate in terms of international standards on legitimate limits of freedom of expression.

Defamation laws are criminalised which necessitate regulatory reform process that seeks to shape development through enabling critical debate. Existing laws are based on archaic colonial or dictatorial-era laws that inhibit public participation in the development of the country.

Individual journalists and media houses are regularly harassed and threatened by various state agencies. Apart from MISA Lesotho’s So This is Democracy? report, there is no comprehensive documentation by any government agency of the various incidences which endanger freedom of expression and media.

As a result, media policy advocacy initiatives in Lesotho have continued for a decade without positive response by the government. Specifically, despite advocacy efforts, the adoption of a Media Policy, the enactment of Media Law and the passage of Access and Receipt of Information Bill by MISA Lesotho have remained unsuccessful since Lesotho held its first democratic elections in 1993.

The media is becoming evidently vibrant and putting a lot of pressure on the state. As a result, this poses a potential danger to use the existing laws against the media and individual citizens.

Regulatory media reform process is long overdue in Lesotho. The country’s media laws must be compatible to internationally accepted standards to level the media playing grounds for conducive civic participation in development.

This process must be supported by comprehensive research that exposes the dangers of the existing laws in practical terms on freedom of expression and media. The research should be in-depth and seek to gather oral and written evidence in relation to the use of existing oppressive laws to media in Lesotho through review of media reports and interviews with victims, ordinary citizens and societal leaders.

The research would inform review of the laws and develop civil society and government engagement strategy to guide drafting of amendments to laws so that they are friendly to freedom of expression and media.

While policy advocacy campaigns have not been successful over the years, this is an opportune time for success as the government of Lesotho has been directed by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Commission of Inquiries to undertake legal reforms as a means to stabilise the country.

Besides the legal reforms recommended by SADC, media reforms in Lesotho will contribute to accelerated localisation and implementation of UNESCO’s resolution on the post 2015 Development Agenda which emphasises on freedom of expression; universal access to knowledge and its preservation; and free, pluralistic and independent media, both offline and online. The resolution describes these as indispensable elements for flourishing democracies and to foster citizen participation.

The legal reforms process has started with security sector. This makes the legal reform project an urgent matter. As a result the project on media legal reforms should be implemented within a time frame of SADC recommended legal reform by the Government of Lesotho.

The need for media capacity building in Lesotho is evident. The sector needs more than just training but also intensive on-job guidance on a short-term and long-term basis. Capacity building should target both editors and journalists for print, broadcast and online media with well packaged skills development content as well as the sector’s legislation to instil professionalism and a culture of adherence to ethics.