MISA Lesotho issues this statement to express our grave concern over the growing rate of harassment of journalists in Lesotho. The recent case of the 357FM’s Lebese Molati marks the peak at which media freedom is under threat imposed by those who wield power.
Molati was, on Sunday, November 14, detained and interrogated by the Pitso Ground and Maseru Central police in connection with his alleged reports, at 357FM, about stolen guns at Mafeteng Police Station and connecting the incident with a certain senior police officer.
Molati has reported to MISA Lesotho about how he was tortured and suffocated to near death in the hands of the police during the interrogation. Molati was forced to reveal the whereabouts of a certain police officer he allegedly interviewed on 357FM, who is at large and the police are hunting him down. Molati has not yet been charged by the police despite the above details. He was released from police custody later on Sunday.
While we appreciate the swift reaction by the Commissioner of Police Holomo Molibeli into committing himself to ensure that action will be taken against the police officers who allegedly tortured Molati, as the Commissioner himself appeared puzzled by the incident, we however condemn categorically the alleged police brutality and detention of Molati by the police without a charge.
In a meeting with MISA Lesotho Chairperson Nkoale Oetsi Tšoana, Compol Molibeli has promised he will instigate an inquiry into Molati’s case to establish the identity of the police officers who allegedly assaulted the reporter. Molati’s case comes shortly after the attack by unknown gunmen on the family of veteran journalist, ’Marafaele Mohloboli, of Lesotho Times and Sunday Express on the night of November 9th. ’Marafaele’s husband was injured during the incident.
While the motive of the attack remains unclear, we called on the security agencies to act on the matter, and bring the perpetrators to book.
We have also received several unconfirmed reports of assault and intimidation against other journalists in the recent past. A common trend in Lesotho, particularly ahead of every National Assembly election, is for the journalists to be unlawfully arrested, harassed, assaulted and tortured by elements of security agencies and political parties. We make a clarion call to all relevant authorities in Lesotho and outside, to apply more effort on ending impunity on perpetrators of crimes against journalists and media freedom in Lesotho, ahead of the 2022 National Elections expected to be held around September.
Issued by: Lekhetho Makhanya Ntsukunyane National Director – MISA Lesotho