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My first ever trip to London.

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 28 Dec 2012 11:35 GMT
Author: Thammy Ntsaba
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As a young journalist, I started working at the now defunct Lesotho Monitor Media as a delivery boy. I delivered newspapers every week to sales point from North to South of the country, using public transport which was insufferable at times.

I gradually became passionate about journalism, I started writing light news like police and crime reports until I showed interest in covering political rallies, marches and press conferences. As I gained confidence; I started writing about businesses, economic and financial issues as well.

Lesotho is a small country divided into 10 districts. It is 90 percent mountainous, rugged and totally landlocked by South Africa our only neighbour. Its population is 1.8 million. In Lesotho, we have virtually no formal journalism education or training, as a result most of our journalists study journalism abroad, while others like me gain experience through on the job training.

We have one channel, which is state controlled and a handful of weekly newspapers in English and Sesotho language; we don’t have a daily newspaper. However, certain nongovernmental organizations and parastatals still provide training workshops for journalists, like the Lesotho National Development Corporation LNDC and the Central Bank of Lesotho recently held media training on trade and economic issues.

Moreover, international organizations like the Thomson Reuters Foundation play a pivotal role in giving journalism training opportunities for journalists on their websites.

In my first ever trip to London; I didn’t know what to expect except the cold weather.  Lesotho is a very cold country during winter, located at 1800m above sea level, but London was far worse than what I anticipated.

I started twitching like a puppy as soon as I landed at Heathrow International Airport; it was around 6pm when the breeze penetrated my cracked cheeks. 

I went to London to attend Thomson Reuters Foundation’s training course Good Governance Reporting at their building in Canary Wharf.   I applied online for this course after registering with their website:  www.trust.org

On Monday our first exercise was to discuss corruption and journalism ethics, whereby TRF trainer, Keith Stafford said, “If you write about corruption, they’re going to attack you, and if you take their bribes you’re in their system. If you want to take down corruption, don’t be corrupt.” He warned of journalists taking gifts from companies, it doesn’t matter how small the package is.

I totally agree with Keith that journalism ethics are a global issue with the sprawling of social media globally, no longer a journalist’s. As I said we had the same discussion in 2011 in the US, at the Murrow Program for Journalists that ethics are unanimously standard, whether you’re in Africa, South America, Middle East or Europe.

Another interesting discussion we had was on company structures. It is interesting to know who runs a certain company, and their background.  At this point we learned that most companies govern the government systematically, not the politicians.  Keith made an example of an imaginary oil company, serving its purpose of making profit and not for the welfare of the citizens.  He said when the government is mandated to the nation’s welfare the oil company is only interested in making profit.

He also mentioned that most companies pay politicians through shares. We learned that if you investigate into company’s structure you’d find that most silent partners are politicians. Others are family members to company managers and chairpersons; therefore this is nepotism which is a major concern in India and most African countries including Lesotho.

During the training, TRF trainer, Camila Reed, said that one can get at least three stories from the budget, either from a company or the government. She said they are inflation, tax - to which Keith said tax avoidance strategy is legal, but tax evasion is illegal and financial growth or fall/decline.

One of the best lessons I received during the course is to explore our ignorance. We have to know how much bonuses managers get in the companies, be inquisitive enough to know what they mean by business jargon such as underlying profits. Secondly be bold enough to make them explain their business and financial terminology which I’m not familiar with.

The participants of the workshop were a diverse group of journalists from different parts of the world. We had a total of 11 journalists from Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa.

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