MISA-Lesotho urges acceleration of media reforms



MASERU – Media practitioners have urged government to give impetus to the reforms process to enable implementation of media policies and laws meant to strengthen the industry and relevant legislation in line with international standards. Practitioners argue that accordingly, this move will in many ways ensure that press freedom and access to information are expressly protected by the constitution. These are sentiments voiced during this year’s World Press Freedom Day celebrations in Maseru this week, with the year’s theme being ‘Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights.’

The inception of World Press Freedom Day dates back to 1993 when the United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 as the day to commemorate press freedom. This day was chosen to mark the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek adopted by journalists participating in a seminar organised by UNESCO in Windhoek, Namibia, in 1991. Speaking at the event, MISA-Lesotho chairperson, Kananelo Boloetse, compared the commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day to the present constitution of Lesotho, which came into force in 1993, shortly after the return to multiparty democracy. He said this year marks 30 years of World Press Freedom Day, the constitution of Lesotho and multiparty democracy.

“I wish to plead with the members of MISA Lesotho, the National Governing Council (NGC) and the secretariat that from next year we should merge World Press Freedom Day, the constitution and democracy together and commemorate them concurrently. Free press, the constitution and democracy are symbiotic – the constitution protects the media to protect democracy.

“It is important for the media to embark on a campaign to encourage people from all walks of life to read, embrace and live the constitution and to raise awareness on the fundamental human rights enshrined in the constitution. Commemorating the constitution each year will help us achieve this mission,” he said.He added that ensuring that the comprehensive national reforms which reflect the will of the people are implemented has always been and remains a top priority for MISA-Lesotho. He said they want to remind the leaders of this country and assure Basotho that MISA Lesotho has not forgotten about the reforms. He said Prime Minister Ntsokoane Matekane and his coalition partners appear to be committed to prioritising the reforms, however, over six months since the new government was installed work to implement the reforms is yet to begin.

On the other hand, the Lesotho National Commission for UNESCO secretary general, ‘Mabafokeng Seala, indicated that they reiterate the message that not realising freedom to press as a right does eventually impact on other basic human rights. She said UNESCO therefore encourages that they celebrate the day through different activities, and should highlight links between press freedom, freedom of expression and other human rights.

“MISA Lesotho has also been engaged to strengthen the media sector and the public in Media and Information Literacy (MIL) since late 2022. This has been a great opportunity for many as every member of the now existing MIL Network has come to realise, they have a responsibility that goes with every right regarding content development, circulation and consumption. “This year as we celebrate World Press Freedom Day, we are wiser than we were before we started series of MIL conversations. I encourage every one of us to carry on learning as it is a lifelong action, it never stops, remember the moment you stop learning you stop growing meaning you start dying,” she said.

The United Nations Secretary General António Guterres in a video message for the World Press Freedom Day 30th anniversary noted that there has been an unbelievable 50 percent increase in the killings of media workers in 2022, stressing that freedom of the press in the foundation of democracy and justice – and it is under threat. Guterres said the collapse of the media industry, which has led to closures of local news outlets and consolidation of media into the hands of the few, is threatening freedom of expression; so are threatening new law passed by government worldwide, such as Russia’s 2022 law that anyone publishing information about its military that Moscow deems to be false could face up to 15 years in prison.

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