IEC warns media

IEC warns media

MASERUTHE –  Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) commissioner Dr Makase Nyaphisi has warned journalists about confrontational reporting during elections.

Nyaphisi was speaking at the official closing of training of 40 journalists sponsored by the US Embassy yesterday.
He said it was worrying that several election observer missions have described Lesotho media as politically polarised, especially during campaign, voting and post election.

This is one of the reasons why the United States Embassy, supported IEC, organised the three-day training workshop for the journalists on the role of the media in peaceful election.

The US embassy brought in journalist Bill Hinchberger to help with the training.
Hinchberg is a freelance writer, communications consultant and educator.

Nyaphisi said reports from the SADC Electoral Advisory Council post electoral mission wrote that the stakeholders they consulted unanimously portrayed local media as unprofessional, polarised and highly partisan.

“The Electoral Commission Forum also wrote (that) a major threat to democracy in Lesotho is the unregulated and unprofessional media,” Nyaphisi said.

He said both “the public and the private media in Lesotho have the potential to undermine the work of public institutions and perhaps institutions like the IEC”.

Nyaphisi said the Electoral Institute on Sustainable Democracy in Africa said many stakeholders including the legal monitoring institution expressed concern over the partisanship of media outlets, especially radio stations, which used inflammatory language that has potential to cause violence.

“It is on the basis of these reports that IEC requested Ambassador (Matthew) Harrington to support this training. Journalists play a critical role in contributing to the democratic process in the country,” Nyaphisi said.

The US ambassador, Matthew Harrignton said he was very delighted to have been asked by the IEC to train journalists in this time of elections.

“As Lesotho approaches the election on June 3, the US Embassy in Maseru has encouraged all parties to do all they can to ensure that the election process is peaceful and credible,” Harrington said.

Harrington said on Press Freedom Day, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said ethical and transparent media coverage is fundamental to free and open societies.

“It promotes accountability and sparks public debates. Society built on good governance, strong civil society and an open and free media are prosperous, stable and secure,” Harrington said.

“Recognising that a free and vibrant press is essential in a democratic society, journalists also have a fundamental obligation to get the story right, to be fair, and to hold themselves to the highest professional standards,” he said.
The training entailed the basics of good journalism and reporter’s tool kit.

The training also covered interviewing techniques, ethics and conflict sensitivity and how to cover elections.
The embassy still has an undergoing media clinic for journalists in partnership with Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Lesotho).

Rose Moremoholo

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