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Media has role to protect digital rights: Viljoen

Thoboloko Nts’onyane

MASERU – The Head of Internews Rosemary Viljoen says the media has a role to defend the citizens digital rights.

This she said during the journalists training on internet shutdowns in Maseru last week.

She further noted that there is a need for synergy between the media and civil society organisations (CSOs) to combat the trampling of digital rights by the governments.

The two she said can make pressure points through collaborative efforts.

The freedom of expression is guaranteed in the Constitution of Lesotho’s as per the provisions of its section 14.

Also, the United Nations (UN) had in 2016 said the internet is the “catalyst” to the enjoyment of human rights.

One of the journalists who participated in the training, Motsamai Mokotjo remarked that the importance of freedom of speech cannot be overstated, adding that it should continue to be augmented and maintained.

“The workshop was quite informative and critical towards promotion of civil liberties like the internet and freedom of expression particularly since there’s the mulled Cybersecurity Bill of 2022.

“As for what I liked, the solidarity amongst journalists was a beauty which needs to be upheld and continuously cherished,” he said.

He further promised to engage his counterparts and family and sensitize them on the role and importance the internet plays in everyday situations.

Asked what his key takeaways from the training were, he said “I really enjoyed the camaraderie among journalists on how best we can conduct advocacy and free speech”.

Recently, digital rights have become a hot button following the throttling of the internet and the internet shutdown.

Giving perspective of the situation in Ethiopia from the Centre for Advancements of Rights and Democracy (CARD) Befekadu Hailu says as long as internet shutdown is concerned, that amounts to cencorship.

He said there have been internet shutdowns in Tigray following to ongoing conflicts in that place.

Hailu said the internet outage affects access to social media platforms such as Telegram, Facebook, TikTok, and Messenger.

“Internet shutdowns encourage disinformation,” he said adding that mostly when effected there is no  even legal basis provided.

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