Push for regulation of the media

Push for regulation of the media

MASERU – A report on the ongoing reforms says Basotho believe that the media is not sufficiently regulated and journalists are not living up to their ethical standards.
The report says Basotho told the National Dialogue Planning Commission (NDPC) that they believe the media is biased, and unbalanced. They also believe that the media does not respect privacy rights and serve public interests.

“There is also abuse of freedom of expression (and) of opinion in the media,” the report says.
“It is argued that journalists and media practitioners tend to assume that freedom of expression is absolute, this is suspected to be a result of weak media regulation.”

Their recommendation is that there should be a national code of ethical conduct and practice. This will form part of an independent media council and a media ombudsman.
Basotho also told the NDPC that they are concerned that most media companies rely heavily on government advertising.

“As a result, the government uses this anomaly to its advantage by dangling the carrot, selectively using advertising as a weapon to punish critical media while rewarding supportive or pliant ones.”
The report said the government is using advertising as a political tool.
“This challenge is further propounded by delays in payments to media houses when government has advertised”.

The reports also revealed that Basotho also want freedom of expression and the media is not protected by the constitution.
The plight of the media, the report said, is made worse by the existence “draconian, outmoded and archaic laws” which infringe on freedom of expression.

Basotho are also worried that the government controls the frequency spectrum distribution and usage. They say although the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) has the mandate to regulate communication and the distribution of frequency spectrum the government usually interferes.

They recommended that the LCA should be managed by a board of directors elected on merit, through a fair and competitive process.
Basotho, the report says, want journalists and other media personnel to be adequately trained.

Rose Moremoholo

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