By Maleshoane Ratsebe & Limpho ’Mabathoana
MISA Lesotho, with support of the Advancing Rights in Southern Africa (ARISA), yesterday lobbied parliament to amend section 14 of the Constitution of Lesotho to include rights and freedoms of online and digital users.
Section 14 guarantees a right to freedom of expression by stating in part that: “Every person shall be entitled to, and (except with his own consent) shall not be hindered in his enjoyment of freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference whether the communication be to the generally or to any person or class of persons and freedom from interference with his correspondence”.
MISA Lesotho argues the section does not necessarily include rights and freedoms of online and digital users. The media rights giant, therefore, wants section 14 amended to consider online and digital users. The Institute submits half of the Basotho population are internet users.
During a presentation before parliament’s portfolio committee on the Prime Minister’s Ministries and Departments, Governance, Foreign Relations and Information cluster yesterday, MISA Lesotho submitted as of January 2021, 1,3 million Basotho were internet users, out of a population of 2.15 million.
This, MISA Lesotho Programmes and Fundraising Manager Mzimkhulu Sithetho said, translated to half of the population on internet.
“There are more than 530, 000 social media users in the Kingdom. Lesotho boasts of 534, 000 WhatsApp users…. As MISA Lesotho we believe the inclusion of this online media users will make provision for online users to freely express themselves and for the younger generation to utilise this medium fully,” Mr Sithetho said.
The call for amendment to section 14, he added, was prompted by the realisation that Lesotho was not spared latest developments in the media and communications spheres.
Mr Sithetho warned that lagging behind in technology will hinder other aspects of development in Lesotho, as other countries have already adopted digital migration, switching to e-economy, e-governance and e-licensing, “improvements Lesotho can benefit from”.
Speaking on behalf of the committee members, Mrs ’Mapulumo Hlao MP and Mrs ’Mamoipone Senauoana MP commended MISA Lesotho for bringing the matter to the attention of parliament as it could have been easily overlooked.
For his part, the National Director of MISA Lesotho Lekhetho Makhanya Ntsukunyane indicated they are yet to make a semilar submission before Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, as well the Lesotho Communications Authority.