Press freedom sacrosanct
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.