Media freedom monitoring


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.


Lesotho government explores Facebook, Twitter closure

The Media Institute of Southern Africa Lesotho Chapter (MISA Lesotho) has learned with great concern of the Lesotho Communications Authority’s (LCA) request to network operators, Vodacom Lesotho and Econet Telecom Lesotho, to “provide a position on the possible temporary closure of Facebook and Twitter”.

MISA Lesotho has also learned that LCA has acknowledged presenting such a request to the two (2) companies. While we have learned that there is no decision made regarding closure of either Facebook or Twitter, the position of MISA Lesotho in this regard is that, Facebook and Twitter are important platforms that have added value in access to information, which is vital in sustenance of democracy and protection of human rights.

A move to close down Facebook, Twitter or any other social network, whether temporarily or permanently, is a regression in the development of our country, and it undermines democratic gains that Lesotho has attained to date. The closure will negatively affect freedom of expression, civic engagement and participation in the political and socio-economic advancement of Lesotho.

Facebook, Twitter and social media in general have evident positive changes in the political, social and economic emancipation of individual citizen, civic groups, cooperate sector, as well as the government of Lesotho. Furthermore, according to studies on the use of social media, academic research has consistently found that people who consume more news on social media have a greater probability of being civiclally and politically engaged across a variety of measures.

While we acknowledge that, if not regulated, social media platforms can be detrimental to safety and security of the country and its citizens, we strongly disagree with the closure of Facebook and Twitter in Lesotho.

MISA Lesotho, instead, recommends to the government of Lesotho to work towards providing an environment that prohibits use of social media to violate people’s rights such as freedom of expression, association, safety, order, morality and health in terms of Lesotho’s constitution and other international apparatus that our state is party to.

We also recommend to the government of Lesotho to take advantage of SADC Commission of Inquiry recommended legal reforms to work towards a regulatory regime for information and media in Lesotho. In our view, Facebook and Twitter are some of important platforms that can be used to enable solicitation of people’s views to help inform development of laws that protect rights and freedoms of the people of Lesotho.

Therefore, MISA Lesotho appeals to LCA and government ministry concerned to refrain from closing Facebook and Twitter. This is the time when the world is advancing into an open society where social media has proven to be an easy tool for access to information which has greatly contributed positively to human development globally.

May God bless and protect the people of Lesotho and their beautiful country.

For engagement with MISA Lesotho on this statement please contact us on:

+266 22 320 941 or

misalesotho@gmail.com


Lesotho Times editor shot and wounded

Lesotho Times editor shot and wounded

Lesotho Times Editor Lloyd Mutangamiri was shot last night at the gate at his lower Thamae residence in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho, just before midnight. Lloyd was returning home from his office after completing the Sunday Express issue, which is a sister newspaper for the Lesotho Times.

He is still in hospital reportedly stable, though under security. Members of the public and his colleagues were not allowed to see him for security reasons at noon today.

Lloyd was shot just a week after his boss Basildon Peta was charged for defamation and crime injury with regard to Lesotho Times satire column called Scrutator, which carried a satiric story about the Lesotho Defense Force commander and the Lesotho Cabinet.

Lesotho Times in the last two weeks issued an apology on its lead story, regarding a lead article titled Kamoli ‘Exit Strategy’ in which the paper admitted that it published the story without verifying information from its sources. The apology was issued following summoning of Lloyd and his reporter Keiso Mohloboli regarding the story.

Without linking the shooting of Lloyd with any of the previously mentioned information on this media alert, MISA-Lesotho condemns the shooting of Lloyd and regards it as a threat to media freedom in Lesotho. We therefore appeal to the government of Lesotho to commission investigations on the shooting of Lloyd, and provide a report to enable informed decision making by the people of Lesotho and the world on this issue.

For queries you can contact:

Tsebo Mats’asa

National Director

MISA Lesotho

misalesotho@gmail.com