Freedom of the Press 2008 - Lesotho
|Publication Date||29 April 2008|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2008 - Lesotho, 29 April 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4871f6141e.html [accessed 2 March 2015]|
Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 13 (of 30)
Political Environment: 19 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 14 (of 30)
Total Score: 46 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)
The media environment worsened in 2007, particularly during the run-up and aftermath of snap elections in February. 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 penalties for seditious libel. In recent years, 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. Several such libel suits were initiated by government officials in 2007. Journalism groups have urged the government to create a media council or other regulatory body empowered to mediate such 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 2007, the run-up to February's snap election saw journalists at Harvest FM and People's Choice FM threatened and accused of "causing confusion." According to RSF, Harvest FM has been targeted by the government as the "headquarters" of the opposition ABC; the station was shut down for two days while election results were announced. Host Adam Lekhoaba was deported to South Africa after the elections, though he later returned to Lesotho after winning his case of citizenship. In June, Harvest FM's Thabo Thakalekoala was arrested for treason after reading on-air a letter attacking Prime Minister Mosisili; the host claimed he was forced to read the letter after death threats were made against him.
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 2007, less than 2 percent of the population accessed the internet, which remains unrestricted by the government.