Freedom of the Press - Lesotho (2006)
|Publication Date||27 April 2006|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press - Lesotho (2006), 27 April 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/473451cd31.html [accessed 12 December 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 13
Political Influences: 15
Economic Pressures: 14
Total Score: 42
Life Expectancy: 35
Religious Groups: Christian (80 percent), indigenous beliefs (20 percent)
Ethnic Groups: Sotho (99.7 percent), other [including European and Asian] (0.3 percent)
The government generally respects freedom of speech and of the press, both of which are provided for in the constitution. However, a 1938 proclamation prohibits criticism of the government and provides for penalties for seditious libel. Extremely high fines have been handed down by the courts in libel cases against publications and radio stations known for criticizing the government, forcing some to the verge of closure. In November, the English-language weekly Public Eye was ordered to pay a private businessman, Lebohang Thotanyana, 1.5 million maloti (about US$220,000) for alleged defamation (and the resulting damage to Thotanyana's business); the ruling was issued in the absence of the newspaper's legal representatives. Other libel and defamation proceedings occurred in 2005, some of which were settled out of court. Journalism groups have urged the government to create a media council or other regulatory body empowered to mediate defamation disputes before they end up in court.
The government periodically attempts to pressure the independent press, and journalists have suffered occasional harassment or attack. In March, two officials of the Lesotho Catholic Bishop's Conference threatened the editor of the tabloid Moeletsi oa Basotho with physical violence and harassment; hosts of the radio talk show Lijo'a Ke Baeti on Catholic Radio were similarly threatened by anonymous callers in July. Several independent newspapers operate freely and routinely criticize the government, while state-owned print and broadcast media mostly reflect the views of the ruling party. There are four private radio stations, and extensive South African radio and television broadcasts reach Lesotho. Journalists reportedly have trouble gaining free access to official information, and media development is constrained by inadequate funding and resources. In 2005, 1.8 percent of the population accessed the internet, which remains unrestricted by the government.