Media freedom monitoring


Media Statement on Shooting of Newsday Journalist Ntsoaki Motaung by Police

MISA Lesotho has learned with grave concern about the shooting of the Newsday newspaper journalist Ntsoaki Motaung by members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) during the youth protest dubbed #BachaShutDown on Friday November 6th 2020.

The Institute further observed with disappointment about the arrests of other journalists who were on duty during the fateful Friday, by the police. MISA Lesotho wishes to categorically condemn acts of police brutality and the harassment of journalists by the LMPS members during the protest.

MISA Lesotho has since requested the Commissioner of Police to publicly provide an account of events of Friday November 6th 2020, particularly relating to the role played by the members of LMPS manning the youth protest.
In a letter dated November 9th 2020, MISA Lesotho has implored the Commissioner to make the public statement within seven (7) days of receipt of the correspondence by his office, lest it was by authority of the Commissioner of Police that the LMPS members victimized the journalists on duty on Friday November 6th 2020.

MISA Lesotho notes with disappointment in observance of growing rate of police brutality characterized with journalists being treated like criminals by the LMPS. At this day and age, the Institute expected the LMPS to be professional and observant of role of journalists. What happened on Friday can only be attributed to an attempt by the LMPS to intimidate journalists and silence the media.

MISA Lesotho has since brought to attention of the Commissioner of Police that journalists are vested with mandate to, inter alia, inform society about events such as the youth protest on Friday. This duty is in line with section 14 of the Constitution of Lesotho which speaks to the issue of freedom of expression and access to information as a constitutional right for Basotho.


MISA Lesotho Position Paper on Proposed Promulgation of LCA (Internet Broadcasting) Rules 2020

The Chief Executive Officer
Lesotho Communications Authority
30 Princess Margaret Road
Old Europa, Maseru

Dear Madam,

MISA Lesotho Position Paper on Proposed Promulgation of LCA (Internet
Broadcasting) Rules 2020

Cognizant 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 marginalised members of society who were not able to access 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 in the
Communications Act No.04 of 2012,

Informed about, the intent of the aforementioned rules being to make provision for
regulation of internet broadcasting and content distributed over the internet,

Cognizant 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
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:

1) MISA-Lesotho is a media non-governmental policy advocacy organization 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 formulation of media and communication policies that advance the cause for
freedom of expression of opinion and freedom of the media.

2) 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 expression
and 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.

3) MISA-Lesotho also observes the innate powers and authority granted by law on
regulatory and oversight institutions, in particular the LCA, which is granting of
licenses to communications service providers; promoting and preserving fair
competition in the communications market; approving tariffs, managing the radio
frequency spectrum; empowering and protecting consumers; type-approving
terminal equipment and other related responsibilities.

4) 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 deviation of the set norms has to be done in the spirit of
bringing a state of normalcy and balancing the forces between enjoyments of rights
and freedoms by consumers.

5) 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’.

6) MISA-Lesotho is also cognisant of the reality that the platforms are created for
granting citizens an opportunity to express their views and participate in the national
development agenda.

7) Therefore, MISA-Lesotho categorically repudiates, in the strongest possible terms
this promulgation, because it infringes on the right to freedom of expression of
opinion and freedom of the media.

8) MISA-Lesotho is aware of an attempt to enact the 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.

9) MISA Lesotho wishes to draw attention of the LCA to the African Declaration on
Internet Rights and Freedoms Initiative by Pan-Africa countries to promote human
rights standards and principles of openness in internet policy formulation on the
continent.

10) 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 multistakeholder
internet governance.

11) It is firmly an upheld view of MISA Lesotho that LCA awaits promulgation of the Cyber
Security law, 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 can be formulated.

12) It is our fervent belief as MISA-Lesotho that the internet broadcasting rules will draw
their strength from the Act, which would have drawn its strength from the policy.

13) 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 principle the
LCA based its determination of the number 100!

14) MISA Lesotho further holds a view that LCA awaits the ongoing Multi-Stakeholder,
Multi-Sectoral National Reforms, before rushing into promulgating any rules.

15) MISA-Lesotho is also concerned about the capacity of the LCA to implement the rules
without political interference, as well as its 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 in as
far as the right to freedom of expression of opinion is concerned. Our quest is to see an
informed society through 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 the social media platforms has played a catalytic role in amplifying the voices of the previously marginalised members of society who were not able to access content of the mainstream media.

Sincerely,
Lekhetho Makhanya Ntsukunyane
National Director


Media Statement on Utterance by BNP Deputy Leader and Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Hon. Machesetsa Mofomobe Against Newspaper Editors of Foreign Origins

September 22nd 2020
To All Media Houses

This serves as an expression of concern by MISA Lesotho over unwillingness and lack of interest by Deputy Leader of Basotho National Party (BNP), who is also Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Honourable Machesetsa Mofomobe, to cooperate with MISA Lesotho regarding his remarks against local newspaper editors of foreign origins on August 12th 2020.

During a media briefing at the BNP premises on August 12, Honourable Mofomobe referred to the expatriate editors as “Makoerekoere”, which is tarntamount to hate speech.
MISA Lesotho learned from Honourable Mofomobe’s statement that he was aggrieved by how the newspaper/s edited by the expatriates reported about the BNP leader and Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Honourable Thesele ’Maseribane.

Following this, on August 17th 2020, MISA Lesotho wrote to the deputy minister, requesting a meeting with hope of bringing the two sides on round table with the aim of reaching an amicable and peaceful solution.
It is with regret that to date, Honourable Mofomobe has not responded to the proposal. Instead, he allegedly published on Facebook that he does not recognise MISA Lesotho as it is not a statutory organisation.

The deputy minister had further, during an interview with Mafeteng Community Radio later in the month, acknowledged receipt of the letter from MISA Lesotho that proposed the meeting, but he argued he was not interested in the meeting because MISA Lesotho had already judged him in an interview with another radio station.
MISA Lesotho is firm and wishes to state categorically that it is unbecoming of Honourable Mofomobe, or any other person of an equal stature, entrusted by the nation to protect rights
of every citizen, expatriates included, to use racist words or phrases against other human beings.

We will recall that in July 2016, an editor of Lesotho Times and Sunday Express, Lloyd Mutungamiri of Zimbabwean origins, was nearly killed after he was shot allegedly by elements of the army. Prior to his shooting, similar utterances had been made. It is the mandate of MISA Lesotho to condemn any threats to the media freedom.
MISA Lesotho remains unshakable that words such as that used by Honourable Mofomobe incite hatred and ignite xenophobia. Such words against media practitioners further incite fear to the media freedom.
MISA Lesotho takes this opportunity to advise all complainants of media content to follow the legal route.


World Press Freedom Day 2018

World Press Freedom Day 2018

In commemoration of World Press Freedom day, the Media Institute of Southern Africa Lesotho Chapter (MISA Lesotho) held a one day event comprising of a Conference and participation on Global web chat.
The event held at State Library American Corner in Maseru included address by representative of the UNESCO Commission in Lesotho Ms. Bontle Ntsoaole, Government Spokesperson Mr. Nthakeng Selinyane and MISA Lesotho Chairperson Mr. Boitumelo Koloi. The discussions revolved around speech by UNESCO Director General, Government Spokesperson relations to the media and State of the Media in Lesotho.
In the afternoon,the participants joined the global web chat on Media Literacy facilitated from Washington DC. The Global web chat was preceded by Public Affairs Officer, Melissa Schumi.

Access To Information

Government’s stop on licenses halts community radio project

In 2015, MISA Lesotho, supported by Open Society Initiative in Southern Africa (OSISA), started assisting three communities to establish their own radio stations in a view to catalysing vibrancy in information exchange and debate for community development.

The project covering Mokhotlong, Semonkong and Quthing communities is, however, being frustrated by a moratorium on the issuance of broadcast licenses granted two years ago.

In each of the communities, the community members’ commitment is evident in that in Mokhotlong and Semonkong the project was allocated a plot where MISA Lesotho has constructed and completed studios. In the district of Quthing, the office of the District Administrator gave a house that was converted to a complete studio.

Equipment for the three radio stations was bought a year and half ago and it is yet to be installed because no broadcasting license has been granted.

The project was supposed to have ended in March, 2017. Due to the moratorium, the donor has agreed to a no-cost extension until March 2018 banking on the promise of the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Joang Molapo to suspend the moratorium by first quarter of the 2018.


Police interrogate presenter from private station Ts’enolo FM

Police interrogate presenter from private station Ts’enolo FM

Ts’enolo FM, a private radio station in Lesotho, had its political programs radio presenter, Rets’epile Maloi, brought in for questioning by a panel of four officers from Lesotho Mounted Police Service right after his morning program yesterday on the 9th March 2017.

The questioning took more than two hours. According to the explanation given to him by the police, the questioning was to discuss concerns arising from the conduct of his program, Fika Le Mohala, that airs on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m..

The concerns, among other things, included a segment on his program where guests with different political standpoints are called in simultaneously to debate burning issues. According to the police, this may spark violence in the general public over the arguments of the guests.

Police also pointed out that the listeners of Fika Le Mohala abuse the Speech Withdrawal principle by phoning in and deliberately uttering unpleasant words and later being told to withdraw – yet the message has been sent across.

The police warned Mr. Maloi that this should be the last time he is called in to talk about the content and conduct of his program.


Lesotho Parliament

Media ordered out of Lesotho’s parliamentary press gallery

As the parliament of Lesotho started a deliberation on a motion of no confidence in the Government of Lesotho this afternoon, the media was been moved out from the press gallery. According to journalists at the parliament, a police officer ordered them to the public gallery arguing that media accreditation issued exceed the press gallery’s capacity. In the public gallery, the journalists observed that they were mixed with members of the security institutions and civil service officials.

On the 27th February 2017, two members of parliament, P. T. Lehloenya and T. S. Rapapa filled a motion that:

“this Honorable House has no confidence on the 2nd Coalition Government of Lesotho led by Rt. Honorable the Prime Minister Dr. Pakalitha Mosisili and that this honorable house beg leave to urge His Majesty the King to appoint Honorable Monyane moleleki member of Machache as a next Prime Minister”


World Radio Day

MISA Lesotho boycotts World Radio Day as stations are closed

MISA Lesotho will boycott World Radio Day commemorations planned to take place on Monday, 13th February, 2017. This decision is taken in solidarity with Ts’enolo FM (104.6MHZ) and People’s Choice FM (95.6 MHZ), which were cut-off air on Thursday, 9th February, 2017 by the government of Lesotho (read more about the closures here).

The decision is taken following the failure of the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology to execute the Lesotho Court’s order to re-connect the People’s Choice FM to Lesotho National Broadcasting Service’s antennas with immediate effect on Saturday 11th February, 2017. The ministry had the perfidy to promise MISA Lesotho that the radio stations would be back on air by Friday, 10th February, 2017.

MISA Lesotho supports the commemoration of World Radio Day; however, our firm belief is that the commemoration should be done along a sound demonstration of the day’s aspiration as set out by UNESCO which the government of Lesotho is a party to.

We take the government of Lesotho’s decision to defy the Court order to re-connect People’s Choice FM as a clear indication of the government intention to suppress freedom of the media and undermining of the rule of law in Lesotho.

For more queries contact the Media Institute of Southern Africa, Lesotho chapter (MISA Lesotho) on:

misalesotho@gmail.com or +266 22 320 941

MISA Lesotho
P.O. Box 14130
Maseru 100

Plot 1B Happy Villa
Maseru

Chairperson: Malakeng Hloma, Secretary General: Boitumelo Koloi, Deputy: ‘Mapitso Ts’iu, Treasurer: Lineo Uamussi, Members; Mothae Moletsane, Ts’episo Mncina


Government closes two Lesotho radio stations over criticism

Government closes two Lesotho radio stations over criticism

Three days ahead of the commemoration of the World Radio Day on the 13th February, 2017, two locally owned radio stations, Ts’enolo FM (104.6MHZ) and People’s Choice FM (95.6 MHZ) were cut off air yesterday (Thursday, 9th February, 2017)  by the government of Lesotho.

According to the Principal Secretary of the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Ts’eliso Khomari, the radio stations were cut off for broadcasting material that defamed Prime Minister Bethuel Mosisili and Deputy Prime Minister Mothejoa Metsing.

Station managers of the two radio stations, Khauta Mpeqa and Mshengu Tshabalala respectively, in different interviews, have confirmed broadcasting of a press conference and an interview with Litjobo family.

The Litjobo family that the government complains about comprises of two blood brothers, Refiloe Litjobo and Thuso Litjobo, who about a month ago were members of Mosisili’s led Democratic Congress (DC). Thuso Litjobo was the president of DC Youth League, while Refiloe Litjobo was the Deputy Secretary General of the DC Executive Committee. Both brothers have joined a newly formed Alliance for Democrats (AD) led by Monyane Moleleki who deputised Mosisili in the DC.

The closure of the radio stations came shortly after the Minister of Communication Science and Technology Serialong Qoo dismissed the Litjobo’s statement as a campaign to discredit the Prime Minister and his Deputy.

In a discussion with MISA Lesotho, the principal secretary promised to advise his Minister to reverse the decision to close the two radio stations. Therefore, it is MISA Lesotho’s expectation that the two radio stations will be back on air anytime today. As this alert is issued, the two radio stations were still off air. The permanent secretary met the People’s Choice FM radio’s manager and agreed on re-connection of the radio station to Lesotho National Broadcaster Service (LNBS) today. The permanent secretary told MISA Lesotho that he will have further discussions with the radio stations management to address the government concerns.

The minister’s decision to close the two radio stations is implemented just two weeks following Thaaha Khube FM (97.4 MHZ)) broadcast of program that attracted dissatisfaction from many listeners as being a campaign to discredit King Letsie III for addressing SADC Oversight Committee recently in Lesotho. Despite a lot of noise about the content of the programme, the government did not close Thaaha Khube. It was therefore MISA Lesotho’s advice to the permanent secretary that further discussions regarding content of radio stations’ programme should include Thaaha Khube FM.

It is MISA Lesotho’s firm belief that the government of Lesotho will re-connect the two radio stations to the LNBS antennas today.

For Queries: Contact National Director,  MISA Lesotho at +266 22 320 941 or email: misalesotho@gmail.com


State of the media in Lesotho: A journalist’s perspective

State of the media in Lesotho: A journalist’s perspective

Billy Ntaote  is a reporter with Lesotho Times Newspaper. In January 2017, he published an article where he interviewed a member of the opposition Basotho National Party. The police requested Billy to provide a statement regarding the article. Billy Ntaote, however, referred the police to his editor who asked for a written request. To MISA Lesotho, this incident appeared to be a threat to Billy and other journalists in Lesotho. MISA Lesotho therefore interviewed Billy to find out his opinion as a practising journalist on the state of the media in Lesotho.

MISA Lesotho: Billy, what do you think in terms of your freedom as a journalist?

Billy Ntaote: I believe many Basotho journalists continue to enjoy a somewhat free exercise of their rights. However in the day-to-day work of reporting news, I find myself having to self-censure to avoid finding myself accused of defamation, of contravening some of the internal security laws. My freedom as a journalist is in general largely neither here nor there, taking that my colleagues have in the past been gunned after their interrogation or questioning for hours by the police and soldiers. So whenever one reports a story that has to do with the police or the army, one has to approach such a story extra carefully and make sure all bases are covered lest one finds oneself intimidated. If whenever I request a comment from the army I am told the media house I work for is being used against the interest of the country – then, I do not think I am free to ask any question as a journalist in Lesotho.

MISA Lesotho: What do you think should have happened differently?

Billy Ntaote: Concerning the case whereby police came to our offices recently seeking a statement to corroborate a story published in a newspaper, I find it puzzling. The story in question has not been retracted, so it can be used as it is, I do not find a reason why a media house or a journalist should be requested to say his story portrays what the source said. In fact I think the police, if they need a journalist to give evidence, they should subpoena such a journalist to appear before court and not frequent the offices of such a journalist as it cause them panic and threatens, more especially when the police threaten to also include the journalist among the accused person in a case they are investigating if he refuses to cooperate.

MISA Lesotho: What do you think should have happened differently? Is the police act justified?

Billy Ntaote: I do not think the police act was justified, they should have subpoena to the media house and not claim that they will think otherwise and later add they will charge the journalist along with a politician who was announcing his plans for a protest march.

MISA Lesotho: Do you find the police act a threat to media freedom in Lesotho?

Billy Ntaote: The manner in which they handled their investigations does threaten the media from doing its daily work. Not only does it threaten the freedom in Lesotho, the police seem to suggest how the media on numerous occasions should report news. In fact the police suggest the media or journalists should censure stories and that is a threat to media freedom.

MISA Lesotho: Please give your appeal solidarity message to the world.

My appeal to the world is that Lesotho media fraternity is in dire need for its campaigns to have repealed laws that suppress the media freedoms become a success. And campaigns for media policy and access to information laws enacted to give the press freedoms to hold those in authority accountable without any fear of reprisals from politicians or anyone in position of power. This shall go a long way towards safeguarding Lesotho’s nascent democracy.



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