Statement


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


Statement of Concern over Prime Minister’s Announcement of Classification of Government Information

September 23rd 2020
To All Media Houses

MISA Lesotho has, on Wednesday September 23rd 2020, submitted a letter of concern to
Office of the Prime Minister over a statement he made on September 14th 2020 while
addressing the media at premises of the Ministry of Health.
During a post ministers’ induction media briefing on above mentioned date, The Honorable
Prime Minister announced the government was working on classifying some of its
documents/information and that any media organization which publishes confidential
government information will be liable to prosecution.

The premier said it was a was prosecutable offence for the media or anyone else to publish
or to be found in possession of classified government information.
In the Lesotho Times issue of September 17-23 2020, the prime minister was quoted saying:
“Anybody who is not authorized to be in possession of classified government documents is
committing an offence. So, when the media gets hold of classified documents, you should
know that it is illegal.”

Further in the article the premier was quoted adding: “Once classified, the contents of those
documents cannot be leaked. Even your (media) inside source is not expected to leak those
documents. As the fourth estate, you are always referring to well-placed inside source in
your stories. We keep wondering where those inside sources are. Government documents
are leaked to social media and at times top classified secrets are leaked by your inside
sources.”
MISA Lesotho, an advocacy and lobby non-governmental organization mandated to promote
media freedom, diversity, independence and pluralism, as well as freedom of expression in
conformity with the 1991 Windhoek Declaration, which saw the birth of MISA in the region,
has not taken the prime minister’s statement lightly.

The Institute finds the prime minister’s statement utterly posing threat to press freedom and
interfering with editorial independence of the media. Most directly, the prime minister’s
statement has a chilling effect on the right of Basotho to access and receive information.
MISA Lesotho has since brought to attention of the prime minister that one of the key functions of the media is to perform a watchdog role to promote of transparency and accountability in leadership.
Inter alia, the function of the media is to provide information for the nation. The media is an agenda setter. This is how the media, in any state, contributes to the development of nations.

MISA Lesotho is committed to ensuring that the media does not become a lapdog of the government.
Coming from the head of government, MISA Lesotho views the prime minister’s statement characteristic of the following chilling connotations against freedoms of expression and media, as well as the right to access and receipt of information as pillars of democracy:
➢ Threatening to media against performing its watchdog role,
➢ Interfering with editorial independence of the media,
➢ Casting a shadow of doubt on political willingness the government to implement the envisaged media reforms within the national multisector reforms process,
➢ Suggesting lack of willingness on the part of the government to enact the Access to and Receipt of Information Bill of 2000,
➢ Symbolising unwillingness by the cabinet to approve the Media Policy that has become a mantra since early 1990s, and
➢ Signaling the government’s quest to micromanage, censor or even silence the media
The Honourable Prime Minister’s statement coincides with commemoration of the United Nations’ International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) on September 28.

The statement further coincides with latest survey findings of the Afrobarometer research which place Lesotho at a critical democratic stand. The report shows that 76 percent of respondents under the survey have a view that Lesotho in not a democracy.
These, together with the premier’s statement, could put Lesotho in fragile terms with the international community.
MISA Lesotho has advised Honourable Prime Minister to retract the statement or provide justifiable clarification within his earliest and reasonable convenience.


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.