For the past decade, Lesotho has been celebrating the World Press Freedom Day in different ways. More often than not, the day had been marked through press freedom marches, campaigns and forums. However, on May, 3rd 2017, the day was celebrated in the form of a training workshop aimed at equipping local journalists with relevant skills to report on elections as the country is heading to elections on June 03rd.
Aligned with the internationally agreed theme titled “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies “. The Lesotho National Commission for UNESCO (LNCU) in partnership with MISA-Lesotho invited the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) to shed light on Media Code of Conduct During Election Period. This was aimed at ensuring that local journalists reported well researched and balanced news guided by the principles of professionalism and high ethical standards during the election period.
Some of the elements covered by IEC included inter alia: Accurate reporting; journalists protection while carrying out duties during elections; conducting interviews and publication of electoral results.
Adopted during the UNESCO funded workshop in 2012, the LCA provided training on “Guidelines for the coverage of elections on radio and TV in Lesotho”. The presentation by The Public Relations Manager- Mr. Tšiu Tšiu put more emphasis on the notion that the public is entitled to fair, balanced, accurate information about the election procedures.
Figure 1: Group picture of some of the participants during the workshop
As it is a norm to talk about the plight of journalists during the World Press Freedom Day, MISA Lesotho Chairperson – Mr. Tsebo Matšasa led some discussions on journalists’ safety during elections. The subject mostly covered: Factors jeopardizing journalists’ safety during elections in Lesotho; common safety threats of journalists; State responsibility on journalists’ safety; and Journalists’ responsibility on their safety.
Figure 2: Local journalist taking stock of their safety during election period
The workshop was organized on the founding principles of UNESCO which advocate for peace and stability. LNCU therefore found it befitting to converge such a gathering as media can play a central role in ensuring that elections are reported fairly, professionally and ethically in order to avoid conflicts during this critical time in Lesotho.
The workshop was officially opened by the LNCU Secretary General- Ms. Palesa Montši who also read the UNESCO statement for the day.