MISA-Lesotho drills journos ahead of polls



MASERU – The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Lesotho chapter, jointly held a four-day training session for journalists with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to capacitate media practitioners on election reporting, safety and security of journalists during elections. Explaining the purpose of the four-day training programme, MISA Lesotho president, Nkoale Oetsi Tšoana, said the training was beneficial to media personnel as it will ease their reporting on election.

Delivering his keynote address on behalf of the Minister of Communication, Science and Technology, the Public Relations Director Abeloang Ramakhula said he was glad that MISA entered into an agreement to promote fair reporting on the coming elections without discrimination.

He added he trusts that the media will report these elections, aligning themselves with electoral laws and regulations. Ramakhula reminded the trainees that peace and stability of these elections depends on them with their fair reporting as they are the mouthpiece of the nation. IEC commissioner, Tšoeu Petlane, said this training is important and necessary as the role of the media in election processes is to support and strengthen democracy. He said media as the fourth estate has the power to sway opinions, to influence the good or bad process of elections.

Speaking about Civic Education, IEC Voter and Civic Education Manager, Lydia Macheli, said the role of media in elections includes being observers of elections and keeping Basotho abreast with the elections process without reporting any information that could cause chaos. Macheli said the training is also meant to educate and refresh media personnel on electoral law and being able to access misleading information that is usually spread about elections. Presenting the importance of voter turnout, IEC Voter Education Assistant, ’Mantsane Mahlatsi, said voter turnout assists in analysing the behaviour of voters so that the commission can assess what education the voters need so as to increase the hype of the elections.

She said voter turnout also helps to measure the rate at which registered voters vote and why they did not vote, which groups of people do not vote and who does. In an interview with Public Eye, MISA Lesotho National Director, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, said so far a majority of the objectives of the training have been achieved and that he is satisfied with the outcomes judging from the participants’ interaction during the training. He noted that he trusts that the trainees will spread and share the knowledge with their colleagues after the training.

However, Ntsukunyane said the problem with the local media is that people who are messing this profession intentionally do so masquerading as journalists while they are politicians. He said the impact of those is very negative and poisonous to the journalism profession as the influence seems to strongly affect the young and upcoming journalists. To stop this behaviour, Ntsukunyane said MISA Lesotho is trying by all means to reduce this negative influence by building a wall between professional journalists and those who masquerade as part of the profession.

He said the long-term goal of MISA Lesotho is to establish a well reputable and respected journalism sphere in the country. In his presentation during the training, Ntsukunyane said journalists have to verify their information and avoid publishing misinformation only because one wants to be the first to publish a scoop. The safety of journalists is important and they themselves have to ensure their safety by being professional in their daily work and take note of reporting an allegation as an allegation not a fact, he said.

He added that journalists should also be able to identify credible sources and not spread misinformed propaganda, adding a journalist’s duty is to report the truth. In his presentation, the IEC Public Relations Manager, Tuoe Hantši, noted that reporters have to be knowledgeable and give people well-researched information that will not create chaos among the nations hence this training was necessary for reporters ahead of elections. He added that reporters should be public educators hence they have to research information before disseminating it as there should be mechanisms of transparency.

One of the attendees, Teboho Likotsi, who works for Radio Maria Lesotho said the training had enlightened his mind as a new reporter in the industry, especially when it comes to elections reporting during and after elections. He said what he liked about the training was that he learned about electoral laws and how reporters are expected to report elections including the rights and responsibilities of reporters in elections processes and how to report elections. Likotsi said after this training, he is confident that he will be able to share the knowledge he acquired with his colleagues.

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