A LONSTANDING promise from the Lesotho government will be fulfilled
when it finalises a media policy in the coming months, writes Mzimkhulu
Sithetho for journalism.co.za.


a draft policy is now being circulated and discussed by media practitioners. A stakeholders meeting is to be held in August to discuss the document.
 
The policy calls for the country’s constitution to guarantee the freedom of the media. Currently, the constitution only mentions the right to freedom of expression of opinion.

It also seeks to amend and repeal some laws that that media practitioners feel infringe on media freedom. These include the Sedition Proclamation of 1938 that forbids media practitioners from publishing any information that is perceived as seditious.

A journalist found guilty under this law can be sentenced to two years in jail or fines M200 (R200).

Another one is the Official Secrets Act of 1967 that prohibits media practitioners from accessing information from government departments as information is classified.

The Law Reform Commission has been mandated to work on the process of repealing and amending the laws.

For broadcasting the draft policy foresees co-regulation in the form of a broadcasting panel that will hear complaints from consumers of broadcasting content and make recommendations to the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA).

The director of MISA-Lesotho, Mr Tsebo Matsasa has expressed satisfaction that the media will have an instrument that will be a Bible for reference in their daily operations.

Speaking on a local radio station, Matsasa said that media policy is an important tool as it also observes the rights of consumers of media content since they will be able to lodge complaints if they have been misrepresented.

The new policy also seeks to guarantee equal access to the public broadcaster by all political parties. This will end the
ruling party’s monopoly of the state-controlled broadcaster.

The draft media policy states: “The Communications Act will provide for the licensing of public broadcasters which will be accessible to all political parties and independent candidates on a fair and non-discriminatory basis, particularly during election campaigns.”