Media policy awaits cabinet approval

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MASERU — Cabinet has still not approved the draft media policy for Lesotho four months after the policy was unveiled to the media.
Communications Minister Mothetjoa Metsing told a media policy workshop last August that the policy would be approved by the government by September.
The long awaited media policy seeks to regulate the broadcasting, print and publishing industries in Lesotho.
On Tuesday, Metsing said the draft policy was still waiting for approval from Cabinet.
“The policy has been sent to the cabinet for adoption. It could not be adopted timeously because there are some issues which the cabinet should look deeper into the draft policy,” Metsing said.
He did not specify which areas the government was still “looking at” in the policy.
Media organisations in Lesotho last August hailed the crafting of the draft policy saying it represented a major step forward for the media which had for years operated without any written guiding principles.
Metsing this week said cabinet will only sit next Tuesday following the Christmas break.
“Since it is now an internal matter within the cabinet I cannot tell when the cabinet will fully deliberate on it.
“But it cannot be any time before the 12th of January because the cabinet only sits on the 12th for this year’s business,” Metsing said.
The draft policy document says the government wants to repeal and review several pieces of legislation that unduly restrict the operations of the press.
Among some of the laws cited are the Obscene Publications Proclamation (1912), the Sedition Proclamation (1938), the Official Secrets Act (1967), the Printing and Publications Act of 1967 and the Internal Security Act of 1984.
Media rights groups say most of these laws are too broad as to criminalise the practice of journalism.
They also say these laws, in their present form, have no room in a democratic society.
The media argue most of these laws which date back to colonial times generally impose unreasonable restrictions on the work of journalists.
Last August Metsing said the government was committed to transforming the media sector in line with international trends.
But the government says the new media policy should comply with Lesotho’s international commitments.
It should also be consistent with international best practices.
The government says it wants to protect the rights of all citizens to seek, receive and impart information or ideas.

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