Press free­dom paramount

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How­ever, in spite of the huge role that that the press, like all through­out the world, plays in de­vel­op­ing our eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal land­scape, the Le­sotho Union of Jour­nal­ists, re­cently lamented the lack of a Code of Con­duct for all jour­nal­ists.

This is de­spite the fact that since pre­vi­ous govern­ments and the in­cum­bent one have been promis­ing they will at least launch a com­pre­hen­sive me­dia pol­icy.

This un­for­tu­nately leads our scribes and other journos to tread in un­char­tered ter­ri­tory if they do not have a ref­er­ence point, do­mes­ti­cally, to ef­fec­tively dis­charge their huge man­date to this na­tion.

To its credit, the Na­tional Univer­sity of Le­sotho (NUL) un­der the In­sti­tute of Ex­tra Mu­ral Stud­ies (IEMS) of­fers an ac­cred­ited ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion in mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

At least, as­pir­ing news­men and jour­nal­ist as well as es­tab­lished ones can broaden their hori­zons to carve a niche in this pro­fes­sion for them­selves.

There is also the Me­dia In­sti­tute of South­ern Africa (MISA) — Le­sotho Chap­ter that seeks to pro­mote the pro­fes­sion and up­hold and pro­tect the in­ter­ests of the journos. As to whether it is ef­fi­ciently dis­charg­ing its man­date the jury is still out.

For in­stance, I have only felt its im­pact hugely dur­ing the na­tional elec­tion which are in­evitably crit­i­cal in the way the ex­er­cise is con­ducted and the di­rec­tion the coun­try is steered post-elec­tion.

The crit­i­cal role that the press plays in the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic land­scape of the coun­try can­not be over-em­pha­sized. It calls on the gov­ern­ment and other stake­hold­ers, ow­ing to our small but vi­brant me­dia, to act as cat­a­lysts in pro­mot­ing and di­ver­si­fy­ing the press so that it im­pacts hugely in a pos­i­tive fash­ion to our des­tiny as a na­tion.

They ought to re­al­ize that the press can ei­ther break or cre­ate a na­tion such as in Bu­rundi, years ago. It is on oc­ca­sions like the WPF Day that the crit­i­cal im­por­tance of the press ought to be brought to the fore.

By launch­ing a com­pre­hen­sive me­dia pol­icy and code of con­duct that re­spects, di­ver­si­fies and pro­tects and en­sures a vi­brant and di­verse press that is in­de­pen­dent and ro­bust, then not only gov­ern­ment and Ba­sotho can ben­e­fit hugely but also all the other stake­hold­ers can ben­e­fit.

The press is the vi­tal cog that keeps our eco­nomic, ed­u­ca­tional, com­pet­i­tive­ness, and reli­gious wheel turn­ing for the bet­ter. It keeps

ev­ery­body in­formed and abreast of de­vel­op­ments that can ben­e­fit the rest of the na­tion. We need to in­vest as a na­tion in the press so that all our vi­tal re­sources can be har­nessed ef­fi­ciently.

The leg­isla­tive and in­sti­tu­tional ca­pac­i­ties are al­ready in place to pro­mote and up­hold the right to free­dom of ex­pres­sion as en­shrined un­der Ar­ti­cle 19 of the 1948 Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights.

All stake­hold­ers across the spec­trum ought to op­ti­mize the WFP Day and the press for the bet­ter­ment of this na­tion. Gone should be the days when they per­ceive the press to be the en­emy of their agenda.

We ought to re­al­ize, in­clud­ing all stake­hold­ers, that WFP Day and a ro­bust in­for­ma­tive press pro­motes healthy rig­or­ous de­bate on is­sues of na­tional im­por­tance. Pro­mot­ing the WFP Day, re­spect­ing, and pro­mot­ing “Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion and Fun­da­men­tal Free­doms” is a ve­hi­cle for na­tional trans­for­ma­tion, democ­racy and so­cio-eco­nomic devel­op­ment.

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