Free press critical for a democratic Lesotho

What a roller coaster year this has been!

We want to take this time to thank you our loyal readers and advertisers for your unflinching support.

Without your support we would not have reached our goals.

Our circulation figures have continued on their upward trajectory.

Advertising revenue has also grown suggesting the Lesotho Times has become the newspaper of choice in the Kingdom.

This has been a tremendous achievement given that we have been on the market for barely four years.

But we will not gloat about these achievements. We realise more still needs to be done to transform the Lesotho Times into a truly national newspaper.

While this is proving to be a daunting challenge we want to assure our readers that we are up to the task.

We want to promise our readers that we remain committed to our goal of bringing news from all corners of this country. We remain passionate about informing, educating and entertaining the nation. We are commited to bringing balanced and  investigative stories.

We are confident this will be achieved  because the government has created an enabling environment that allows journalists to work without harassment.

It has so far resisted the temptation to impose draconian pieces of legislation to curtail our freedom to practise journalism in a manner we deem fit.

For this we are grateful.

This has been happening at a time when benighted governments in Africa have been on a relentless push to roll back our hard-won democratic freedoms.

In Eritrea, for example, scores of journalists are languishing in prison for daring to express counter views from those of the government.

In Zimbabwe, journalists continue to be picked up by the police for challenging the official version of events.

Journalists have been imprisoned, with some paying the ultimate prize in pursuit of truth.

We are not surprised that press watchdogs label journalism the most dangerous profession outside a war zone.

But this need not be so in Lesotho.

We are confident that the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili will continue to view the press as a partner in development.

We hope the government will resist the temptation to copy the terror tactics of regimes north of the Limpopo.

Of course we are fully aware that we have ruffled a few feathers.

This is unfortunately how things should be in a normal democratic society where the press plays its role as a watchdog of society.

As Nelson Mandela once said, “a critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy”.

“It is only such a free press that can tamper the appetite of any government to amass power at the expense of the citizen.”

Mandela made this incisive comment in February 1994.

Now 17 years later the ANC has come up with what should be seen as the most calculated assault on democratic freedoms in South Africa through its “Information Bill”.

It is our hope that Lesotho will not go the South African route by coming up with its own “Information Bill” to gag local journalists.

We believe as a newspaper we have striven to be fair, balanced and impartial in our treatment of news. Where we have made mistakes we have been quick to apologise.

Where the government has done well, we have also been quick to praise.

But generally we believe our mandate is to keep those in power, whether in government or the private sector, on their toes.

As we head towards elections next year, we pledge to increase our vigilance as we seek to execute this mandate.

We however note with concern the rise of a small, powerful clique that thinks they can silence journalists by issuing veiled threats against those who are merely doing their job.

It is these individuals who pose the biggest threat to press freedom in Lesotho.

However, threatening to kill journalists for exposing corruption would be a big mistake.

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