MASERU – Monday 29 November 2021 is a historic day for the media in Lesotho – the long awaited policy framework to govern the conduct of practitioners so that they observe nationally and internationally accepted norms and standards of ethical practice was adopted by parliament.
This marks the beginning of the end of Lesotho’s media practicing in the absence of a media policy.
The policy enjoins the media sector to adhere to the principles of the journalism profession.
The Lesotho chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa says governments and parliaments have ignored and overlooked the policy for the past 25 years.
Chairperson Nkoale Tšoana said the adoption of the media policy called for celebration as it has taken a long time.
“Some of those who advocated for it have even died as it remained on the shelves gathering dust without being passed. This is therefore a moment of victory for Lesotho media practitioners.”
The policy’s scope covers application and coverage of the media sector and seeks to among others: develop a media sector that is conscious of its role within society as one of the important pillars within society as well as create regulatory mechanisms and systems for proper governance of the media sector so that it operates according to the principles of the journalism profession.
It is also underpinned by principles such as seeing the media as a public good, an information tool, and media as a civic education platform within society as it is a depicter of cultural diversity of society.
Other principles espoused by the policy are that the media is an instrument for accountability, a propeller of peace-building, an injector of social cohesion and national unity as well as a catalyst for national development.
The adoption of this media policy comes at a time when the media is under attack, is constantly criticised for being politically infiltrated and polarised, and as the nation moves towards the 2022 polls.
It was developed by the National Reforms Authority (NRA), which was formed by the Second Multi-Stakeholder National Dialogue Plenary (Plenary II) as the reforms implementation mechanism, together with other stakeholders, and approved by cabinet.
Communications, Science and Technology minister Sam Rapapa said media ethics are truthfulness and factuality, accuracy, balance, lack of bias, no vested interest, fairness of commentary and accountability.
There are other ethical considerations that are worthy of mention in the media industry – safeguarding public interest, avoiding causing unnecessary alarm, proper attribution and crediting of sources.”
Rapapa also pleaded with members of parliament to stop calling for sexual favors from women media practitioners in exchange for news as the matter has been reported.
In seconding the adoption of the policy Alliance of Democrats legislator Thuso Litjobo emphasized the need for regulation of social media which has become a nuisance to other consumers.
“The media policy is a good move and is way overdue, however I am gravely concerned about the use of social media which has very little respect for anyone as people hide behind fake accounts. I therefore would like to urge the responsible minister to work on this matter before it’s too late,” said Litjobo.