Army says media not the enemy

Army says media not the enemy

MASERU – THE Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Deputy Commander, Major General Matela Matobakele says the army should consider the media as front-line partners for development.
Maj Gen Matobakele said this in his welcoming remarks at the opening of a Media Operations Course held in Makoanyane Barracks on Monday.
The course instructor was a British Royal Air Force Wing Commander, Kevin Rayner, who is also the security adviser assigned to Lesotho, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.
Twenty participants drawn from the LDF, the police, prison warders, the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) and the Media Institute in Southern Africa (MISA-Lesotho) attended the training programme.

Maj Gen Matobakele said the army had in the past perceived the media as a threat to national security, a position he said must be adjusted.
He said the media will always play its watchdog role in society, doing so in a patriotic and credible manner.
Maj Gen Matobakele said it was crucial for soldiers to be taught how to handle the media to avoid friction.
The training programme had come at the right time because of the national reforms that are currently taking place in Lesotho.
He added that the media should also not think of sowing seeds of disunity amongst the people but should see themselves as partners who collect information and assist the nation in the push for unity.

“Media will always remain a watchdog and give the nation what is happening in a patriotic and credible manner,” Maj Gen Matobakele said.
He said independent media was sometimes looked as the divisive agency by giving unfounded information, confrontations and sowing hostile seeds between the people and the security agencies.
“As security agencies we need to think of a trustful and reliable partner when thinking about the media,” Maj Gen Matobakele said.

He said media fraternity must understand that as the security agencies “we understand their importance today”.
“To be the media doesn’t mean you are to release every information untimely because that may cause harm instead of building for a common purpose,” Maj Gen Matobakele said.
He said media operations must be based on absolute and demonstrable truths.

“We are not operating in isolation, but we are operating within a context that requires a response to a situation,” he said.
RAF Commander Rayner said in most cases, armed forces want to control media “but in a democratic dispensation, the media do not need that control”.
He said the course is a bit challenging but he would share the experience he had gathered with the participants.

The course comes a month after the LDF public affairs officer Lieutenant Colonel Mashili Mashili accused Kabi of “infiltrating the LDF with the intention to spy” and endangering the security of the country by publishing information from a “restricted” military document in a letter he sent the media house.
The Lesotho Times and its sister paper, the Sunday Express had published articles by Kabi on November 29 and December 2 about demands for compensation made by soldiers who were accused of mutiny between May and July 2015 by the government at the time.

The 45 soldiers, some of whom were detained and allegedly tortured, were reinstated in the army in February 2018.
Mashili also accused Kabi in the letter of a “calculated attempt to foment hatred and create a chaotic situation in the LDF.”
In the letter, Kabi was reminded of the shooting of her editor Lloyd Mutangamiri.

Five soldiers Brigadier Rapele Mphaki, Mahanyane Phusumane, Khutlang Mochesane, Nyatso Tšoeunyane and Maribe Nathane have already been charged with attempted murder of editor Mutangamiri. The threats on the journalists triggered international outrage from media organisations which later forced the army to issue a groveling apology to the journalist and the newspaper.

Nkheli Liphoto

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