LESOTHO INTRODUCTION Lesotho is a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). However, the country has done very little to incorporate these instruments into domestic law. Lesotho is yet to promulgate a law that guarantees access to public information. It is, therefore, not easy for the public to demand access to public information where public institutions deny requests for information. There is no use requesting intervention from the judiciary, as existing laws do not grant access and therefore there is no legally enforceable right to access to information. Section 14 of the Constitution of Lesotho guarantees freedom of expression, amongst many other freedoms and rights enshrined in the Constitution. However, media freedom is not explicitly protected. Lesotho is chiefly known for its laws that restrict media freedom. Lack of access to information impedes public participation in the democratic system. Citizens often have to rely on hearsay in order to know whether their country is progressing or stagnating. Lack of access to public information can contribute to the lack of context and background information of newspaper articles and research reports. It is very common to find journalists and independent citizens being denied information. The strict control of information has resulted in the public flooding press conferences. Many believe that journalists are given all the information and decide to give as little as possible to the public. This survey seeks to determine whether public institutions in Lesotho make information available to the general public. There is little hope that the government will alter the status quo any time soon. After the 2012 general elections, where no political party achieved an outright majority, many had hoped for drastic reforms. The election results necessitated the formation of a coalition government for the first time in the history of Lesotho. The three former opposition parties – the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) – joined forces to form the government. This marked an end of the 14-year rule of Mr Pakalitha Mosisili, who had served as Prime Minister since 1998. The new regime has not done anything to ease the restrictions on media freedom. RATIONALE AND RESEARCH PARAMETERS This year’s study focused on eight ministries with the aim to assess the degree to which they are accessible and responsive to public demand for information. The survey was conducted between the 23rd of June and the 25th July 2014. The study shows how transparent each ministry is by using prescribed tools to measure the level of responsiveness for each chosen ministry within a given time frame. 24 The following government institutions were surveyed: 1. Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) 2. Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority (LEWA) 3. Office of the Ombudsman 4. Lesotho National Dairy Board (LNDB) 5. Ministry of Home Affairs 6. Ministry of Energy, Meteorology and Water Affairs 7. Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) 8. Office of the Prime Minister AIM OF THE STUDY The main purpose of this study was to assess the level of openness in government and public institutions in the country. The results of the study will continue to inform MISA Lesotho’s campaign for legislation on access to information and a media policy. OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY s 4O ASSESS THE LEVEL OF TRANSPARENCY IN GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC institutions against international standards and principals on access to information. s 4O INmUENCE THE ADOPTION OF PRACTICES LAWS AND A CULTURE THAT promotes transparency and openness in government and public institutions. s 4O INFORM ADVOCACY AND INTERVENTIONS BY -)3! ,ESOTHO AND civil society across the country. s 4O ENCOURAGE CITIZENS TO EXERCISE THEIR FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO access information generated, held and under the control of government institutions necessary for accessing other socioeconomic rights. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY The research adopts qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection, and seeks to evaluate the level of public access to information held by government and public institutions. Each MISA Chapter conducts research by evaluating the websites of government and public institutions along with submitting oral and written requests for information. This method seeks to establish the transparency and efficiency of government and public institutions in providing information to the public. DATA ANALYSIS Category 1: Evaluation of government and public institution websites to determine the access and presence of credible and updated public information, which includes but is not limited to: powers and functions of the institution in question; vacancy and budgetary allocations; procurement procedures and contact details and reports. Category 2: This category was divided into two sections, namely written questionnaires and oral requests for information. These instruments were adopted to determine the ease with which public information is obtained from government and public institutions.