MISA mulls media fund but warns on embedded journalism



MASERU—The Media Institute in Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho Chapter has outlined plans to establish a media fund aimed at supporting and sustaining the operation of the media sector in Lesotho. The notice was announced during the MISA-Lesotho commemoration of World Press Freedom Day last Friday.

The global theme for the event was ‘A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis,’ while the local theme focused on ‘Supporting local initiatives for building viability, resilience, and sustainability of the media: Towards a capable journalism practice that is able to address an environmental crisis facing Lesotho and support the Sustainable Development Agenda (Agenda 2023).’

During an interview with Public Eye, Kananelo Boloetse, Chairperson of MISA-Lesotho Chapter, outlined the fund’s purpose which includes: supporting and financing media projects to enhance high-quality journalism, upholding freedom of expression, and promoting diverse voices in the media landscape.

Boloetse said a task team has been appointed to conduct thorough research on the operational aspects of the fund, including potential sources of financing such as private donations, international organisations, or philanthropic foundations. However, he refrained from speculating on the timeline for establishing the fund, acknowledging that it could vary depending on circumstances. He made it clear that donations from businesses seeking favourable coverage would not be entertained.

Maintaining the highest standards of journalistic integrity and independence is paramount to MISA’s mission. Boloetse stressed that accepting such donations would compromise this mission, which is rooted in supporting unbiased, ethical, and high-quality journalism. He also expressed his disapproval of advertisers attempting to dictate media content, stating MISA’s commitment to breaking free from such constraints.

Boloetse emphasised MISA Lesotho’s commitment to cultivating a media environment devoid of undue influence, dedicated to serving the public interest without bias. Therefore, they will only entertain contributions that uphold these principles, devoid of expectations for preferential treatment or coverage. World Press Freedom Day, celebrated belatedly, provided a crucial platform for discussing pivotal issues affecting Lesotho’s media landscape.

During this event, several resolutions were passed, including the establishment of a dedicated media fund. As outlined in MISA’s statement to the media, it was resolved to institute this fund to bolster and sustain Lesotho’s media sector. To achieve this objective, a task force comprising six members has been appointed. Their mandate includes conducting comprehensive research on the feasibility of establishing the fund and exploring its potential structure, governance, and operational modalities.

The findings and recommendations resulting from this research will be presented to relevant stakeholders for further deliberation and subsequent action. Another resolution adopted was the emphasis on fostering unity within the media sector. MISA highlighted the critical need for unity and collective action within the media fraternity. Consequently, it was decided to intensify efforts to revive the Editors’ Forum of Lesotho and the Journalists’ Association of Lesotho (JAL).

These organisations are considered vital for promoting solidarity, maintaining professional standards, and advocating within the media sector. The forum emphasised their significance in safeguarding press freedom and enhancing the capacity of media practitioners.

Studies confirm that World Press Freedom Day, observed annually on May 3, offers an opportunity to reaffirm commitment to the fundamental principle of press freedom. Given the media’s pivotal role in ensuring full respect for the right to freedom of expression, promoting the free flow of information and ideas, aiding individuals in making informed decisions, and bolstering democracy, press freedom is deemed of utmost importance. This significance is highlighted in the preamble to the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa.  

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