Public Eye Newspapers consists of print and online publications. Established in 1997, Public Eye has an Online edition accessible worldwide, a Monday edition circulating only in Lesotho and a regional weekly edition on Friday circulating in South Africa and Lesotho, covering mainly the Free State Province.
The Friday edition is a high-brow paper while the Monday edition is a low-brow paper. The newspaper is founded and exists for the following objectives: to serve as an independent forum for sharing of opinions; to understand and express popular feelings; to raise awareness of public issues; to provide information regarding development plans and methods; to aid the growth of literacy; to report development news, successes and failures; to act as watchdog on government and public institutions and to promote and defend press freedom.
As a high-brow paper, Public Eye Friday edition contains mainly opinion and analysis, politics and governance, entertainment and sport. The paper also has the following permanent pullout sections: Business – covering finance and economy; Workplace/Careers – covering labour, workplace, tenders, jobs, studies and courses; Lifestyle – covering leisure and entertainment; Mosotho – a Sesotho language general news section.
As a low-brow paper, the Monday edition covers general consumer news, especially crime and human interest. The first issue of Public Eye was published on a photocopy A4 paper in August 1997. With only one staff member, the founding editor/publisher, Bethuel Thai, from a home based second hand computer. The issue unexpectedly received exceptional reception in the market and 50 copies were sold within an hour.
The receptive market was a sign of how the market was starving for independent medium of news. From a meagre capital of R700, Public Eye could only afford to publish on a photocopy paper for 12 months. Despite improving copy sales, as copies increased from 50 to 500 plus, it was however still hard for the newspaper to attract advertising. The paper’s investigative and analytical reporting contributed to its increasing sales.
Based on the increasing sales, Public Eye went for newsprint with the aim of joining the mainstream print media in August 1998, and it became the first independent newspaper of government, political parties and religious influence. The move was however frustrated in September 1998 when Maseru was engulfed by political turmoil.
Business buildings were razed to ashes while anything left was looted by rioters who went on rampage to protest the South African National Defense Force invasion of Lesotho to quell on an imminent coup. Printing became impossible afterwards as presses went out of operation, government offices were closed and investors fled the country for their safety.
Public Eye as a result suspended publishing for six months. When it staged a comeback in November 1999, many businesses were still palralysed and no form of advertising was forthcoming. Public Eye was therefore run on a shoestring, relying only on copy sales.
It took at least a year and half before the business could recuperate. While very little adverts started to come from the private business, nothing was coming from government which would not tolerate any criticism and held a perception that Public Eye, as the first independent voice directly in competition with state owned media, was anti-government.
On two separate occasions, government banned advertising on the paper and government departments were instructed not to subscribe for copies of the paper. The first ban in 1998 took almost a year while the second ban that started in June 2007 too two and half years. However, due to unwavering support of the loyal readers and its consistent ethical reporting Public Eye managed to resist and survive government economic sanctions and discrimination on advertising.
Its strength was based on the accuracy and unbiased news content presented without fear and favour. Its credibility and popularity grew from strength to strength until it became the number one national newspaper and the most trusted independent voice in the market.
Today, Public Eye boasts the highest caliber of journalists who give the paper quality standard of journalism in Southern Africa to rightly serve as the independent alternative newspaper to those owned by multi-corporations and governments in South Africa and in Lesotho.
Public Eye is now the most reliable alternative medium of advertising in the region. The paper now has 57 permanent employees and 28 part time employees.
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