MISA Lesotho Position Paper on Proposed Promulgation of LCA (Internet
Broadcasting) Rules 2020
Cognisant of, the fact that the advent of ICT and the social media platforms has played a catalytic role in amplifying the voices of the previously marginalized members of society who were not able to access the content of the mainstream media,
Aware of, Lesotho Communications Authority’s intention to promulgate Internet Broadcasting Rules 2020, with the objective of regulating internet broadcasting and content distributed over the internet,
Aware that, Lesotho Communications Authority’s action is enshrined Communications Act No.04 of 2012,
Informed about, the intent of the aforementioned rules being to make provision for the regulation of internet broadcasting and content distributed over the internet,
Cognisant that, the mentioned rules will empower LCA to request persons who conduct internet broadcasting, as defined by the proposed internet broadcasting rules, to register with the Authority,
Mindful that, such persons will be obliged to comply with broadcasting principles and standards, under the Lesotho Telecommunications Authority (Broadcasting) rules of 2004,
Aware that, with the envisaged broadcasting rules in place, LCA will be vested with the authority to investigate internet broadcasts that are suspected of contravening the LTA (Broadcasting) Rules and that may result in removal of such posts and content,
And now, MISA-Lesotho presents this position paper on the aforementioned intent of LCA:
- MISA-Lesotho is a media non-governmental policy advocacy organisation that has for the past 25 years, advocated for a conducive policy and legislative environment for media proprietors, media editors, and media practitioners to operate in. It has lobbied for the formulation of media and communication policies that advance the cause for freedom of expression of opinion and freedom of the media.
- MISA-Lesotho advocates for respect for the rights and freedoms of all citizens of the country and people by the elected authorities in their actions as they execute the mandates conferred on them by the people as regards their freedom to express their views without any frontiers. This is in line with the prescription of this freedom by the Constitution of Lesotho and other international instruments to which Lesotho subscribes.
- MISA-Lesotho also observes the innate powers and authority granted by law on regulatory and oversight institutions, in particular the LCA, which are watchdogs on any deviation from the set norms and values by the statutes that established them.
- However, MISA-Lesotho firmly holds the view that any promulgation of rules, formulation of policies, and enactment of laws geared towards addressing some of the maladies, malfeasance as well as the deviation of the set norms has to be done in a spirit of bringing a state of normalcy and balancing the forces between enjoyments of rights and freedoms,
- MISA-Lesotho does not hold the view of absolutism, where there is no respective responsibility attached to the freedoms and rights – advancing the cause of ‘where a right of one ends, is the beginning of the right and freedom of another’.
- MISA-Lesotho is aware of the temptation by members of society to go overboard and overstep the parameters when enjoying their rights and freedoms to express their views and opinions, which is a fundamental human right.
- MISA-Lesotho is also awake to the fact that there may be excesses in the manner some members of society enjoy their freedoms and rights to expression of opinion, which in the process, might infringe on the rights and freedoms of others.
- MISA-Lesotho is also cognisant of the reality that the platforms created for granting citizens an opportunity to express their views and participate in the national development agenda or public affairs might be abused by others.
- As a result, MISA-Lesotho is awake to the need for protection of those who might fall prey to the abuse of these platforms by others.
- MISA-Lesotho is also aware of the abuse of the communication platforms to advance perverted and ill-fated acts such as distributing pornographic material, indulging in human trafficking as well as intentionally injuring the reputations of other people.
- However, MISA-Lesotho is opposed to the approach in promulgating these preventive and punitive measures.
- MISA-Lesotho is aware of an attempt to enact a Cyber Security legislation whose intent is to protect users of communication platforms including social media, against hacking and other cybercrimes that may be prevalent on the internet.
- It is firmly an upheld view of MISA Lesotho that LCA awaits promulgation of this piece of legislation, which will provide legal parameters for producers and users of internet-based content in line with universally accepted ethics, norms, and values.
- Then, a policy providing guidelines on how to deal with cybercrimes is formulated,
- Then the internet broadcasting rules will follow after a policy. It is our fervent belief as MISA-Lesotho that the internet broadcasting rules will draw their strength from the policy, which has also drawn its strength from the act.
- In the current state of affairs, for example, where the rules start by defining internet broadcasting as internet posts accessible to at least 100 internet users in Lesotho, whether individually or in a series, and internet posts by users who have more than 100 followers in Lesotho, the question that springs to mind is on what basis is the number 100 placed?
- MISA Lesotho wishes to draw the attention of the LCA to the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms Initiative by Pan-Africa to promote human rights standards and principles of openness in internet policy formulation on the continent.
- The African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms is implemented by more than 50 African countries, including Lesotho, and subscribes, inter alia, to the following key principles; openness, internet access, and affordability, freedom of expression, right to information, freedom of assembly and association and the internet, cultural and linguistic diversity, right to development and access to knowledge, privacy, and personal data protection as well as democratic multi-stakeholder internet governance
- MISA Lesotho further holds a view that LCA awaits the coveted multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral national reforms on the pipeline, before rushing into promulgating the rules.
- The proposed rules have the potential to infringe on the right to freedom of expression of opinion and freedom of the media as there are no clear parameters set out – that is in the absence of a policy and legislation.
- MISA-Lesotho is also concerned about the capacity of LCA to implement the rules impartially and professionally without political infiltration.
- MISA-Lesotho is also wondering whether LCA has the capacity to effectively monitor the Internet and bring offenders to book.
We reiterate our position as MISA-Lesotho that ours is to protect all shades of society as far as the right to freedom of expression of opinion is concerned. Our quest is to see an informed society through the constant provision of information, public education, and entertainment provided by the various media platforms. This, we believe, will lead to a balanced society. The advent of ICT and social media platforms has played a catalytic role in amplifying the voices of the previously marginalized members of society who were not able to access the content of the mainstream media.