Press free­dom sacro­sanct

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

IN this edi­tion, we re­port that three armed Le­sotho Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices (LCS) mem­bers yes­ter­day stormed Tha­hakhube FM stu­dios to stop a cur­rent af­fairs show in which LCS Staff As­so­ci­a­tion Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Le­bona­joang Ramo­ha­lali was talk­ing about the re­cently-en­acted Le­sotho Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices Act (2016).

We un­equiv­o­cally con­demn the at­tack, how­ever the LCS may try to jus­tify it. The of­fi­cers barged into a live ra­dio pro­gramme de­mand­ing their side of the story should be heard. They cer­tainly could have used more civil means to get their point across.

Af­ter all the sta­tion said it was more than will­ing to give them a plat­form to air their views.

Granted, jour­nal­ists must be pro­fes­sional and eth­i­cal. The me­dia in­deed must re­port in an ac­cu­rate, fair and bal­anced man­ner. Of course, as jour­nal­ists we must crit­i­cally look at our­selves in the mir­ror and be hon­est as to whether we are ad­her­ing to ethics and up­hold­ing the pub­lic in­ter­est and not air­brush­ing our own short­com­ings.

As an ex­is­ten­tial ne­ces­sity and pro­fes­sional duty, we must be eth­i­cal but also firm, es­pe­cially with pub­lic of­fi­cials who may want to abuse power and scare away jour­nal­ists from ex­pos­ing their in­com­pe­tence and cor­rup­tion.

It is wrong for any­one to tell jour­nal­ists what they can and can­not say or write. And when in­ci­dents of that na­ture hap­pen, we ought to look at where the per­cep­tion that me­dia can be gagged and con­trolled comes from. We also need to ex­am­ine why cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als and arms of state have a sense of im­punity.

This in­ci­dent brings to the fore the many risks jour­nal­ists face in dis­charg­ing their du­ties. Not too long ago, Le­sotho Times and Sun­day Ex­press Edi­tor Lloyd Mu­tungamiri was gunned down by un­known as­sailants af­ter re­turn­ing home from work at mid­night.

While some of­fi­cials have claimed the at­tack had noth­ing to do with Mr Mu­tungamiri’s work as a jour­nal­ist, it re­mains a fact it came about dur­ing a pe­riod of sus­tained on­slaught against the news­pa­pers.

The world over, jour­nal­ists are un­der threat from state and non-state ac­tors with some los­ing their lives on a daily ba­sis. Sadly, the killers of jour­nal­ists are al­most never brought to jus­tice. This has cre­ated a cli­mate of im­punity in which - from the per­spec­tive of the killers - the mur­der of jour­nal­ists is triv­ial, an act that can be re­peated again and again with no fear of ar­rest or con­vic­tion.

Those who shoot and or harass jour­nal­ists have one goal: to si­lence the mes­sen­ger and in­tim­i­date other jour­nal­ists. There is in­deed a re­la­tion­ship be­tween press free­dom and the econ­omy. Press free­dom is not just a hu­man rights is­sue — it is also a busi­ness is­sue, rel­e­vant to the econ­omy.

It would be ab­surd in the ab­sence of a free press to ex­pect gov­ern­ments to mon­i­tor themselves! If me­dia are to flour­ish in Le­sotho, a new think­ing that de­fines the role of the press in a democ­racy should be de­manded.

In a coun­try that still con­sid­ers it­self a democ­racy, where the rule of law is ex­pected to re­main paramount, at­tacks — whether of jour­nal­ists or any­one for that mat­ter — must not be con­doned un­der any cir­cum­stances.

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