The media has long been hailed as the bedrock of democracy, upholding the principles of free expression, truth, and public accountability.
However, with the rise of misinformation, disinformation, fake news, and hate speech, the very foundation of the peopleâ€™s democratic society is at risk.
This pressing issue was brought to the forefront by Kananelo Boloetse, the Chairperson of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho, during the opening of a media training workshop at the State Library in Maseru last week Tuesday.
FACING NEW CHALLENGES IN THE DIGITAL AGE
In his address to journalists and media practitioners, Boloetse highlighted the profound impact of technological advancements on the dissemination of information.
With the internet transcending borders and permeating every aspect of modern life, journalists now face a daunting challenge in combating the spread of false narratives and harmful content.
â€œMisinformation, disinformation, fake news, and hate speech have become malignant forces that corrode the trust we place in our media and disrupt the fabric of our society,â€ he said.
â€œThey have the power to divide, manipulate, and ultimately silence the voices that seek truth, justice, and progress,â€ he added.
UPHOLDING THE INTEGRITY OF THE MEDIA
Boloetse expressed a sense of urgency and responsibility in safeguarding the integrity of the media.
He emphasised that the role of journalists extends beyond the mere dissemination of information; they are the guardians of truth, defenders of democracy, and the voice of the people.
â€œToday, we confront the harsh reality that misinformation, disinformation, fake news, and hate speech pose a grave threat to the integrity of the media,â€ he said.
REFUSING TO BE DISHEARTENED
While the challenges may seem daunting, Boloetse encouraged journalists not to be disheartened.
He reminded them of their power to reclaim the narrative, elevate truth above falsehoods, and uphold the principles of free expression.
By equipping themselves with the necessary tools to combat misinformation, journalists can ensure that freedom of expression remains a beacon of hope in society.
â€œIt is our collective responsibility to take the lessons learned here and apply them in our daily lives as media professionals. We must commit ourselves to ethical journalism, to upholding the highest standards of accuracy, fairness, and integrity,â€ he said.
â€œWe must embrace our role as truth-tellers, defenders of justice, and as champions of a vibrant and inclusive democracy,â€ he added.
A CALL FOR COLLABORATION
Boloetse also stressed the importance of collaboration with various stakeholders, including government agencies, educational institutions, and civil society organizations, to tackle the challenges posed by misinformation and fake news effectively.
He said: â€œGovernments, civil society organizations, tech companies, and citizens alike must work hand in hand to build a resilient information ecosystem that is immune to manipulation and distortion.â€