Local reporter narrates her ordeal in exile in new book
MASERU – A book narrating professional journeys and challenges faced by journalists from 16 African countries, including Lesotho, lays bare how their unrelenting conviction to tell the truth forced them to flee their homelands has been released.
In the book ‘Hounded: African Journalists in Exile’ some of the continent’s editors, journalists and bloggers from West, Central, East and Southern Africa share their experiences in exile after daring tell the truth.
“Power hates scrutiny,” the book’s editor Joseph Odindo writes. “It is apt. Why else are there journalists in Africa and other parts of the world threatened for doing their job? Then there are those who have “disappeared” or been murdered.”
Others “slipped away to continue the struggle at great personal risk,” writes exiled Cameroonian journalist Mimi Mefo Takambou who now plies her trade in a newsroom in Germany. As Odindo observes, this book is both a tribute of record and history. Odindo says history rhymes eerily for African journalists who continue to be hounded to this day.
“I was compelled to believe that the reason Joseph approached me is because nuisances against journalists in Lesotho are not being addressed regardless. Everything associated with journalists in Lesotho goes unrecorded, and I think one reason is that there are no media policies in our country that makes us look like we are non-existent,” says local journalist and MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism partner Keiso Mohloboli.
Mohloboli says when Odindo approached and asked her to share her experience in exile she agreed with the intention of letting people know that like other countries Lesotho is still going through some of the things that other African countries experience on issues of journalism – even though they don’t occur in a similar fashion like in those countries.
“Despite the publication of the book and a Lesotho story being told in it, chances are that the story might go unrecognised because of this bad habit of indifference to reading. I did this hoping relevant stakeholders will take this matter seriously, so that they see the story and conclude that they have to do something about the way journalism is being handled. When I left home I got exposed to how other countries’ media operate, and I realised that here at home we do not have issues.
We are a nation that accepts situations just the way they are, and because of that we have journalists that just accept everything, and because of that we end up not exhausting wrong issues in our stories,” she says.
Mohloboli cited the very example of the story she was exiled for, for which she, together with her then editor at Lesotho Times newspaper Lloyd Mutangamuri, were arrested. She says one of her colleagues at the publication tweeted “Keiso and Llyod are taken to the Mabote Police Station.”
“So because our journalists do not use twitter, it caught more international interest than here at home, the tweet only got followership when a screenshot was taken and copied to Facebook the following morning.
“So I am in an interrogation room after lunch having been there all morning, and the then police PRO calls the person interrogating me and I hear everything he says to him ‘journalists are nagging me asking about Keiso’s so my boss asked me to call you ask you what should I tell them?’ And my interrogator says ‘tell them they were released after a short interrogation we had with them in the morning’,” reads Mohloboli’s narration of her ordeal in the book.
And adds, “The point I am driving home is… they took the PRO’s word for it, but they could have gone to the place I was locked up and verified everything the police said. But for the fact that our journalists accept things as they are told, nobody thought of that; we are in fact a lazy generation. Journalists only knew the real truth when I was released and narrated my ordeal to them.”
To be a female journalist is difficult in a male dominated fraternity, where people who run the content of the publication are men; women write health stories, she says. “It is very rare to find females writing stories we regard as tough stories, I think it is for female journalists to say what it is that they want to be known of in this field.”