Lesotho: Communications Regulation 2021 (Subscriber Identity Module and Mobile Device Registration)
In response to the recently gazetted Communications Regulation 2021 (Subscriber Identity Module and Mobile Device Registration) the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), and Freedom House issued the following joint statement:
As organizations working on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, we strongly condemn the coming into law of the Subscriber Identity Module and Mobile Device Registration by the Lesotho Government.
The regulations contravene Section 14 of the Constitution of Lesotho (1993), which states, the right to freedom of expression of opinion is guaranteed under Section 14 of the Constitution of Lesotho (1993), including the freedom to hold opinions without interference), freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference” said Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, the Director of MISA-Lesotho. “Furthermore, the regulations contravene Section 11 of the Constitution that notes that every person shall be entitled to respect for his private and family life and his home”.
“We see these regulations as being in direct contrast to the ACHPR Principles of Freedom of Expression said Tiseke Kasambala, chief of party for Freedom House’s Advancing Rights in Southern Africa program. “Coming in the wake of the Lesotho Communications Authority’s (LCA) attempt to promulgate the Computer Crimes and Cybersecurity Bill 2021, these regulations are very disturbing for the country’s democracy”, Ms. Kasambala went on to state.
At the end of May 2021, the then Minister of Communication, Technology, and Science, Kekesto Sello gazette the Communications Regulation 2021 (Subscriber Identity Module and Mobile Device Registration). The regulations require all persons living or entering Lesotho to register their mobile handsets, tablets, and/or any other device that needs a sim card, the sim card itself addresses and biometrics registered and stored in a central database, allowing this information and all communication to be handed over to the state security agencies. This is a direct contravention of the Constitution of Lesotho as well as several regional and international conventions, treaties, and declarations that the country has signed.
Lesotho is in the process of implementing several measures that directly impact Freedom of Expression in the digital sphere. The intrusive nature of the measures will have a major effect on the country’s ability to comply with the ACHPR’s Principles, more particularly:
- Principle 40 Privacy and the protection of personal information
- Principle 41 Privacy and communication surveillance
- Principle 42 Legal framework for the protection of personal information
Additionally, Lesotho is contravening Article 19 of the International Covenant for Civil & Political Rights by implementing these regulations.