Media warned against fake news

… as journalists are advised to counter untruthful information

The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology ‘Mabotle Damane has urged the media to practice responsible journalism to mitigate fake news.

This, she said on Friday during the 26th celebration of World Press Freedom Day held in Maseru under the theme, “Media for democracy: journalism and elections in times of disinformation” which also saw the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho awarding a certificate of appreciation to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Damane noted that it is no secret that the treatment of news by some media practitioners compromises journalism ethics and professionalism adding that no instability should ever be attributed to the functions of the media.

She said freedom of expression should run in concurrence with responsibility and media content should mirror a Lesotho desires so much investment in development and socio-economic growth.

She said this year’s theme comes at a very important time amidst the national reforms process which are geared towards creating the Lesotho all want.

The reforms signify the beginning of a new journey for each and every Mosotho, she noted.

The reforms afford the media fraternity time for introspection as they re-think their role in society and how best they can contribute to their democracy emphasising that it is therefore important to remember that the most significant role of media in democracy is interpretation and coverage of political information, the climax of which being elections.

“For efficient coverage, however, the starting point is for us to review regulation as it is only through regulatory frameworks that we can be governed and protected. The issue of media regulation should thus top the agenda of all debates and discussions”, she added.

Damane indicated that regulation not only promotes freedom of expression as enshrined in section 14 of the constitution but also paves the way towards a free, independent and pluralistic media as envisaged by the Windhoek declaration that was adopted in 1991.

She, therefore, expressed hope that all are sincerely participating in the reforms so that together they can develop new laws and policies which are in line with international best practices.

She further explained that it is now time to begin discussions around the establishment of a Press Council which will regulate print and online media platforms which have until now remained unregulated.

“The Communications Act which governs the Broadcasting sector should also be reviewed as under its current status within the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) it is just a toothless dog”, she said.

She emphasized the need to put their minds on ensuring that oppressive laws which are outdated are removed citing an example of the Criminal Defamation Act of 1969, the Sedition and Proclamation Act of 1938 and Publications Act of 1912.

At the same event, MISA Deputy Chairperson Nkoale Ts’oana expressed gratitude to PAC for opening doors for media in covering the proceedings of the committee saying this has made a great impact in promoting democracy and media in the country.

Ts’oana noted that it is through the partnership which the committee and media have that the public is now aware of how the funds have been used over the years.

He, however, highlighted that they still have challenges of journalists who are assaulted citing the case of Lloyd Mtungamiri, the Editor of Lesotho Times, who was shot and critically injured but the case is dragging on in courts which he said has made them to have little faith in the judicial system of the country.

He urged the PAC where possible to help in ensuring that such cases are solved and journalists are free and protected.

Ts’oana further appealed to journalists to do their work with transparency and urged that they take part in the reforms saying it is through their participation that media reforms would take priority.

On the other hand, in message read by Tieho Rankhone on behalf of UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay said press freedom is the cornerstone of democratic societies saying all nations are strengthened by information, debate and the exchange of opinions.

It indicated that while these periods are key moments of political liveliness, they also lend themselves to all the dangers of instrumentalisation, combined with practices such as obstruction, harassment, unlawful arrest and even murder which prevent journalists from doing their work freely.

“The existence of free, pluralistic and independent media is a prerequisite for the proper functioning of democracies. Independent journalism provides an opportunity to present facts to citizens and to form an opinion.

“Press freedom guarantees transparent societies where everyone can access information. Independent journalism analyses the world and makes it accessible to all working for the diversity of opinion”, Azoulay added.

On behalf of PAC ‘Mats’epo Ramakoae thanked MISA Lesotho for recognising that there are Members of Parliament (MP) who do their work in the National Assembly.

She pleaded with journalists to be the watchdog that as MPs do the work they are entrusted to do as well as addressing community needs.

Meanwhile UNESCO observatory recorded 99 journalists killed in 2018, and a total of 1,307 journalists killed between 1994 and 2018.

PAC Chairperson Selibe Mochoboroane was also present at the event sponsored by UNESCO and Vodacom Foundation.

Lena

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