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The more leaks, the merrier



WE note with a sense of trepidation the government’s plans to classify all its documents and correspondences in an attempt to stop the leaking of confidential information. Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro last week said any journalist who publishes such confidential information will be liable for prosecution. That is deeply disconcerting. The announcement came at a time when the government expressed serious concern over the leaking of confidential information. It also came at a time when several government ministers have released vulgar audio clips attacking each other, incidents which have embarrassed the government. We understand why the government is deeply concerned by these developments. Majoro said to stop these leaks the government will now prepare a Code of Conduct for all ministers. It is patently clear that at the centre of the crisis is an appalling lack of discipline on the part of ministers. The embarrassing episodes we have witnessed over the last few years also speak volumes about the calibre and quality of ministers we have in the coalition government. We have a few ministers we think lack maturity and the necessary gravitas to handle pressure. The result is that instead of dealing with issues in a mature manner, they end up lashing out at opponents and critics, embarrassing both themselves and His Majesty’s government. This, in our humble opinion, is the real issue. It would therefore be disingenuous on the part of the government to shift the blame to the media for merely doing its job by reflecting the grim reality on the ground. We wish to argue in this editorial that journalists are not the problem in this case. They are merely doing their job. Majoro’s government must seek a delicate balance between the interests of the state to keep certain information confidential and the wider public demand for transparency and accountability. That will not be easy. We have seen a number of regimes in Africa abuse the same “official secrecy laws” to stifle free speech. That has had a chilling effect on journalists and the practice of the profession. Lesotho would be much poorer if it falls into the same league as such benighted regimes north of the Limpopo. We do not believe this is the best route we should be taking as a country at this moment in history. Instead, we need more transparency in the government and greater access to information to enable citizens to make better informed choices on issues that directly affect their governance. Of course, we do not dispute the need to keep certain information under the lid in the interests of national security. What we have a problem with is when the government seeks to impose new laws whose scope is so broad as to criminalise the practice of journalism. Such laws will restrict the people’s basic freedoms under dubious claims that it wants to keep state secrets. We want to believe that journalists are playing a critical role in maintaining an oversight role on the government and other arms of the state. In fact, we believe that leaks are the lifeblood of journalism. Most of the documents that are leaked to do not compromise national security; as we practice our trade we remain fully conscious of our responsibilities so as not to endanger national security. What should give the government a big headache is the advent of new media – the social media – that has effectively transformed every citizen into a potential journalist. This in our opinion is the area that needs attention.

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