THE Journalists Union of Lesotho (JUL) has called for a revision of the National Reforms Commission Bill 2018 to explicitly provide for media reforms and the appointment of an experienced journalist as one of the commissioners.
Since its advent to power in June 2017, the Thomas Thabane-led four party coalition government has been consulting various stakeholders including political parties, business organisations and non-governmental organisations in efforts to build consensus on the multi-sectoral reforms the country needs to implement to end perennial instability.
The envisaged constitutional, security sector, public service, governance and media reforms are part of recommendations made by the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2016 to ensure enduring peace and stability crucial to the country’s socio-economic development.
In his submissions to the parliamentary portfolio committee on Law and Public Safety this week, interim JUL Chairperson, Nkoale Tsooana, said that in its current state, the reforms bill did not specifically mention media reforms despite the recommendations of SADC.
The National Reforms Commission Bill was tabled before parliament on 17 January 2017.
The bill seeks to provide for the establishment of the National Reforms Commission whose mandate is to facilitate national dialogue on the envisaged reforms.
The envisaged commission shall be composed of six commissioners and led by a retired judge or any other eminent person. It will operate for an initial period of 18 months with a provision for another 12 month extension to enable it to complete its mandate.
Mr Tsooana said it was important that one of the commissioners be “an experienced media practitioner and expert who shall be recommended by the Journalists Union of Lesotho”.
He also said that the wording of the bill was too general and should be specific about the issue of media reforms in its introduction.
“There is no mention of the media reforms and yet the SADC recommendations emphasise the need for media and information reforms,” Mr Tsooana said.
The introduction of the bill states that it seeks to provide for the establishment of the commission for purposes of facilitating a national dialogue on the implementation of the various “constitutional, judiciary, parliamentary, security , public service reforms”.
It does not specifically mention the media which Mr Tsooana insists it must.
He said media reforms were of such importance that they could not be catered for under the vague phrase, “related matters” in the bill.
He also said the bill should further provide for the enactment of a law to establish media regulatory institutions like a media council and a media ombudsman that will operate independently to facilitate media freedom.