Although Lesotho has had a turbulent political history since gaining independence from Britain in 1966, the media have been threatened and harassed by security forces only occasionally since the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle came to power in April 1993. Nevertheless, since 1995, the government has not actively promoted press freedom, and 1997 was a politically tense year with extreme government sensitivity to critical voices in the media. There are no strong independent media organizations in the country to protect journalists from intimidation.

With general elections slated for next year, journalists working for the state-run media were forbidden to cover opposition press conferences. Armed police abused and harassed reporters covering rallies and the parliamentary sessions, and on September 1-5, the media were banned from entering parliament to cover a feud between the ruling Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) and the new, breakaway Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD). Although the media were eventually allowed access to the upper house of parliament, the ban was not completely lifted until September 15 – when Speaker Teboho Kolane succumbed to pressure from CPJ and other international press freedom groups.

On a positive note, in June the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting accepted a draft media policy after consulting with the press. The draft policy, which will come before parliament in 1998, recommends the creation of an independent press council, a code of ethics, and protection of sources.

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