MISA Lesotho shares its Way Forward recommendations for defending media freedom, freedom of expression and access to information to mark World Press Freedom Day 2020.
LAWS AND REGULATIONS
Create a conducive media policy and legislative environment
The general principles contained in a media policy are direly required to guide the decisions of authorities, especially the government of Lesotho, about the functioning of the media. At the same time, a conducive legislative framework would allow the media to operate more freely and effectively.
Amend the constitution to guarantee media freedom
Press freedom is only implicitly protected under Article 14 (1) of Lesotho’s Constitution (1993), which guarantees freedom of expression. In line with international best practice, Lesotho should introduce a constitutional provision explicitly guaranteeing media freedom to ensure robust protection of the press.
Lesotho lacks an industry-wide framework that regulates both print and electronic media: currently, only TV and radio are covered by the Broadcasting Disputes Resolution Panel. Print media consumers have no means of lodging a complaint except through the courts. At the same time, Lesotho’s media has a reputation for being unethical and lacking editorial independence.
Create a comprehensive media regulatory framework
The establishment of governing principles and code of ethics for media practitioners, editors and proprietors could help improve media quality and professionalism.
Establish a press council and ombudsman
A National Media Council and National Press Ombudsman regulating both print and electronic media would provide a credible complaint mechanism for media content consumers outside of the courts. Suing in court for exorbitant damages has a chilling effect on Lesotho’s surviving newspapers and magazines.
Develop a co-regulatory media system
Government and the media industry should cooperate to develop a co-regulatory media system that brings together both voluntary and statutory regulatory systems. A co-regulatory system would allow for the state’s intervention in case of failure of self-regulation.
Equally distribute government advertising among media houses
The government should not directly advertise with media houses. Rather, it should channel advertising through private and independent advertising agencies, which in turn, distribute ads based on clear criteria such as coverage (reach) and listenership (readership).
Incorporate media training at registration
Media houses should be bound by law to present training plans at registration indicating how they will build the capacity of their employees. In-house trainings are key to developing professional and ethical journalists.
In commemoration of World Press Freedom day, the Media Institute of Southern Africa Lesotho Chapter (MISA Lesotho) held a one day event comprising of a Conference and participation on Global web chat.
The event held at State Library American Corner in Maseru included address by representative of the UNESCO Commission in Lesotho Ms. Bontle Ntsoaole, Government Spokesperson Mr. Nthakeng Selinyane and MISA Lesotho Chairperson Mr. Boitumelo Koloi. The discussions revolved around speech by UNESCO Director General, Government Spokesperson relations to the media and State of the Media in Lesotho.
In the afternoon,the participants joined the global web chat on Media Literacy facilitated from Washington DC. The Global web chat was preceded by Public Affairs Officer, Melissa Schumi.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On the 7th of May through rains and cold weather MISA Lesotho together with Quthing community commemorated World Press Freedom Day to mobilise the community to qualify for application for a community radio as per Communication Act 2012 (as amended).
Quthing community gathered in its multicultural and linguistic nature of Xhosa, Phuti, Ndebele and Basotho.
The occasion was entertained by one of most promising local artist born from the district, Stlofa and it was graced by the District Administrator Seiso Moshoeshoe, Member of the parliament for Moyeni constituency, Honourable Mahooana Khati, Chairperson of the District Council Machabe Machabe and chief Motsarapane Nkuebe.
Challenged buy Quthing Community Radio Station Steering Committee’s Chairperson Ms Anna Shale, the parliamentarian Hounarable Khati pledged M5000.00 in contribution to construction of the studios’ and in the same occasion he paid M500.00 upfront and by the end of the occasion a total of M980.00 was collected. The community needs M32000.00 for the whole project.
2016 World Press Freedom Day will be celebrated on the 7th May in Quthing district. MISA Lesotho will symbolise the celebration by handing over community radio equipment to the district community as part of the project, Access to information Through Establishment of Community Radio Stations. The project is financially supported by Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.
MISA Lesotho selected this district to contribute to preservation of its multi-lingual nature and cultural diversity. Quthing district has three main tribes; Baphuthi, Xhosa and Thepu – each of whom speak a different language.
This year’s World Press Freedom Day theme is:
“ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS: THIS IS YOUR RIGHT!”
Every year, the media celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom on 3rd May. They use this day to evaluate press freedom around the world, defend the media from attacks on their independence and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
Over 100 national celebrations take place each year to commemorate this Day. UNESCO leads the worldwide celebration by identifying the global thematic and organising the main event in different parts of world every year.
The international day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a recommendation adopted at the 26th session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991. This in turn was a response to a call by African journalists who in 1991 produced the landmark Windhoek Declaration (PDF) on media and independence.
In commemoration of World Press Freedom Day celebrated on 3rd May, MISA Lesotho in partnership with the US embassy and UNESCO have planned the following activities for 2016.
Live stream with US investigative journalist Date: 3 May 2016 Time: 13:30-15:00 Venue: American Corner, State Library
Journalists are invited to ask questions during a live stream session with Glen Kessler, a seasoned investigative journalist, businessman, and Washington Post fact-checker columnist. The session focuses on issues of journalistic integrity, media sustainability and ensuring media credibility.
World Press Freedom Day celebrations at Quthing community
Date: 7th May 2016 Time: 09:00-13:00 Venue: Quthing Pitso Ground, Upper Moyeni, Quthing
Members of Quthing community and media practitioners are invited to attend World Press Freedom Day celebrations at Quthing district. The event will celebrate the district’s multilingual and cultural diversity and includes traditional songs and dances. MISA Lesotho will hand over of radio station equipment to the community on the day.
Screening of the film, Spotlight
Date: Thursday, 19th May 2016 Time: 14:00-17:00 Venue: American Corner, State Library
Investigative journalists, journalists and editors are invited to a screening of the US film, Spotlight. The film demonstrates the power of investigative journalism, following journalists investigating massive cover up of child molestation within the Catholic church in the United States.
Investigative awards presentation
Date: Friday, 27th May 2016 Time: 17:00-20:00 Venue: MISA Lesotho premises, Happy Villa, House 1b
MISA Lesotho members and practising journalists are invited to attend the presentation of the investigative reporting awards. These will be presented to local journalists in the categories radio, TV and print for reports published between November 2015 and May 2016.