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Public Eye report was a lie

by Lesotho Times
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THE editor of the other weekly, Public Eye, has not been gracious enough to print my response to an article that appeared in their newspaper containing untruths about me and an erstwhile colleague.

I suspect this is deliberate because the editor/proprietor has a history with the organisation in question.

The editor is refusing to recognise my constitutional right of reply to an article that I consider to be libellous.

In the spirit of World Press Freedom Day, I ask that you print the following letter verbatim:

I read Thulo Hoeane’s report titled “Misa broke” which appeared in the Public Eye of April 3 with interest and not without a little disappointment.

It has always been my assumption that a newspaper of the calibre of Public Eye would endeavour to “report news that is accurate, free from bias and truthful at all times”.

This appears to have been a mistaken assumption. 

Allow me to comment more on Hoeane’s extremely inaccurate, biased and untruthful report.

I trust you will indulge me when I invoke my constitutional right to freedom of expression in your newspaper as the Public Eye has refused me the right of reply.

Hoeane rightly points out that I left MISA-Lesotho in 2005 yet the report he so liberally quotes from covers the financial year 2007/08.

Bizarrely, he complicates the picture even further by actually claiming that “the report under review was during the tenure of Malefetsane Nkhahle, who was at that time national director . . .”

One has to seriously ask whether Hoeane was even aware of this serious misstatement of facts.

Or was he so blinded by whatever the unsavoury motive of his to not see something so glaringly obvious?

He says nothing in his report about checking his facts with MISA-Lesotho.

Indeed, when I pointed this out to him, all he could say was that what he had by way of “facts” was sufficient for him to publish, notwithstanding that his “facts” might be wrong.

Let me state a few facts for the benefit of your readers.

During my tenure, MISA regional AGMs were usually held in August/September of each year.

By that time it would normally be expected that the chapters would have held their own annual general meetings at which the audited accounts would have been presented.

Because of this we usually held our MISA-Lesotho AGMs in May/June/July.

At no time during my tenure of office did we ever fail to meet this requirement.

Throughout this period our accounts were never qualified.

True, a management letter would have been produced, as is normal, and would have been replied to, hence the certification of accounts.

The management letter does not ordinarily form part of the documentation for an event such as an AGM or if it does it is normally accompanied by management’s letter of response.

According to Hoeane, the MISA-Lesotho membership passed a resolution to have the management letter included as part of the documentation for their AGM.

Its status in the AGM remains unclear and it is not immediately obvious what purpose it serves in that forum.

I also note that Hoeane’s report makes no reference to a copy of the management’s response as part of the same documentation.

Quoting from a management letter unsupported by management’s response in a newspaper report is staggeringly naive.

As a one-time national director of MISA-Lesotho, I can state, with a fair degree of conviction, that Hoeane is dangerously deficient in his appreciation of the type of organisation MISA is and how it is financed.

Contrast Public Eye’s reporting of the MISA-Lesotho AGM with the report of the same event in the Lesotho Times and the difference in the quality of the two reports is mindboggling!

I commend MISA-Lesotho for having set the record straight and I am also encouraged by its continuing commitment to playing a supportive role to the creation of a more professional media in this country.

Yet again I am astounded by the paper’s statement that it stands by its story which seems to revolve around the curious assertion that Mapesela and myself are indebted to MISA-Lesotho.

This was despite the fact that, even as I tried to explain to Hoeane, my debt to MISA-Lesotho was discharged a long time ago.

My purpose in writing this letter is to indicate that I was considering my position until I saw MISA-Lesotho’s letter.

In the circumstances, I thought that all I could do was to ask for a simple apology, even as I considered the report sufficient grounds for a defamation suit against Public Eye.

But based on my beliefs and my previous role as a champion of press freedom, I would be loath to do that.

However, I was blown away by the paper’s response to MISA-Lesotho’s letter, wherein they asserted that they stood by their story, notwithstanding that it clearly bespeaks a total lack of professionalism.

In his response to one of Public Eye’s false and misleading reports, Maope states that Hoeane asked him a question over the phone and their conversation lasted no more than “ . . . a minute or two”, yet the reporter boldly states that to have been an “interview”.

My conversation over the phone with Hoeane lasted no more than 30 seconds.

My last comment concerns the paper’s style of adding rejoinders to readers’ letters.

I consider it a vain attempt to justify their unprofessional approach to their work.

Stories have to stand the test of accuracy and veracity on their own without having to be propped up by silly rejoinders or other attempts to defend them as if they met even the most basic standards of good journalism.

Let readers be the judge of that.

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