The result has been no “direct government harassment including threats, injury to persons, assassinations, restrictive legislation, expulsion and/or exclusion from the country or censorship” as
quoted by Set_abi Set_abi in the 2001 So This Is Democracy?
Lesotho’s financially weak media has however faced some of these threats from different quarters. They have come in the form of a litany of defamation cases instituted by private individuals
and political figures, within and outside the government. Since MoAfrika radio faced closure for
alleged failure to make good on a payment of ZAR167 000 owed to Moeketsi Sello MP as
compensatory and punitive damages for defamation, numerous plaintiffs have instituted defamation cases against the media.
An attempt to shut down MoAfrika radio through the issue of a writ of execution on behalf of
Sello came on 15 May 2003. This was despite the fact that Sello had obtained judgement against
MoAfrika newspaper, owned by CR Communications (Pty) Ltd. and not MoAfrika radio, owned
by Third World Evangelical Movement for Human Rights and Democracy, a registered NGO.
Government could only see Ratabane Ramainoane the CEO, President and Editor of both
media establishments respectively behind these actions. It would be naïve to assume the writ
had been issued by Sello on his own initiative at a time when MoAfrika radio was also being
So This Is Democracy? 2003


Media Institute of Southern Africa


Despite this promise, the relationship between government and the private independent media
remains uneasy. Senior government officials, especially ministers, routinely avoid interviews
and radio phone-ins with the privately owned media. The media also adroitly avoids confrontation with state officials by turning a blind eye to many incidences of corruption within the state
machinery for fear of reprisals through withdrawal of government advertising. Government advertising sustains most media establishments.


Towards the close of 2003, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Communications, T_liso
‘Mokela, on the occasion of the first ever Editors’ Forum, promised that the Access and Receipt
of Information Bill, drafted in 2000 by the Law Review Commission, would finally see its day in
Parliament at the start of 2004. The editors suggested however that they would like to put the
legislation to the litmus test of the Article XIX Principles on what FOI legislation should contain
before its passage to Parliament.



ince the advent of democratic rule in 1993, the Lesotho media has operated under a
relatively free constitutional dispensation that extends a general protection of the free
dom of expression to all citizens. The legal framework however leaves much to be desired. Several media-unfriendly laws still exist on the statute books and ought to be repealed.
These include the Sedition Proclamation of 1937 and the Internal Security Act of 1984 amongst
others. Government has yet to actively promote a media friendly legislative and policy framework through the enactment of media friendly laws such as a Freedom of Information (FOI)
law and the introduction of an all-inclusive media policy.


Thabo Motlamelle is a lawyer turned journalist with long experience in the Lesotho, regional
and international media. He has worked for the BBC, Radio France International, The Star
Foreign News Service, the Times of Swaziland and Public Eye. Presently he runs a media
consultancy in Lesotho.





State of the media in Southern Africa - 2003

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