Africa-Press – Lesotho. As Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho commemorated the World Press Freedom Day, support for media and protection of journalists against online harassment was highly emphasized.
National Reforms Authority (NRA) Media Reforms Special Advisor Mzimkhulu Sithetho said World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on May 3rd 1993 following a recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth session of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s General Conference in 1991 and it was decided that every year, this event shall be commemorated globally.
He added that this year’s theme is ‘Journalism under digital siege’ , saying the theme may be informed by, among others, advances in communications, which have placed pressure on traditional media such that they face challenges if they do not adapt to the latest trends.
“It has been discovered that in many countries, the media sector is going at a snail’s pace in terms of adaptations of the latest trends in communications and as a result, it faces challenges to keep pace with the trends,” he said.
He also said in most countries, journalists are subjected to harassment, threads and online intimidations. MISA Lesotho Chairperson Nkoale Oetsi Tšoana insisted on the effectiveness of the current media due to advances in technology.
Referring to the times of Covid-19, he said journalists were able to past strong messages to the public through digital platforms. UNESCO Lesotho Programme Coordinator for Culture ‘Mabafokeng Seela said whether in the context of Covid-19 or during war and conflict, reliable information is more than necessary.
She added that journalists play an essential role in providing this information. She said they assess, investigate and disseminate facts, ensuring that people can make informed decisions.
She said journalism is therefore a public good which ought to be defended and supported. Seela said digital technologies are further revolutionizing this landscape and they have permitted unprecedented exchanges on information, that supporting journalism across borders.
“We can now see what happens in any corner of the world at any time,” she said.
She, however, said these opportunities come with new challenges as the advent of online platforms has called into question the economic viability of independent and pluralistic media, upending existing value chains and business models.
She noted that the digital era has also put media workers and their sources at greater risk of being targeted, harassed and attacked. She said technology advances need to be underpinned by respect for the freedom, privacy and safety of journalists.
For his part, the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology Hon. Tsoinyane Rapapa said stories with style and attachment to the values of press freedom help people better understand the complex world in which they live.
“In the face of deepening global communication explosion, terrorism and conflict, climate change, poverty and diseases, there is even a greater need for journalism to break down walls of prejudice, ignorance and powerlessness and for media to be watchdog of government,” he said.
Rapapa further said the theme seeks to bring together on this day; journalists, media representatives, activists, cyber security managers and legal experts including policy makers to develop concrete solutions meant to tackle threats posed by increased surveillance to press freedom and privacy.
He indicated that this is also a day of support for media which are targets for the restraints especially during this era of technology when information is moving at a rapid rate thus posing challenges such as forged information in circulation across different social platforms.