It is still common practice - procedure, in fact - for the Ministry of Communications, operating
under the Internal Security Act of 1984 to refer all media practitioners, independents included,
to the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) headquarters for both press card acquisition
and press accreditation. The ministry has put this measure of police accreditation in place to
ensure that media practitioners are screened before being awarded press card accreditations to
determine their records, in the name of “public safety and security”.
Every time there is a State event, journalists are required to obtain such accreditation from the
same office. Housed in the LMPS forensic department building, this office issues accreditation
cards to “press controllers” and “security personnel” drawn from the police, intelligence agencies
and defence force personnel, for the same event.
This practise peaked in notoriety when towards the end of 2003, and throughout the first four
months of 2004, media practitioners were unable to get new press cards or to renew their
expired accreditation documents from the LMPS headquarters because of the organisation’s
practically obsolete, non-functional IT equipment. This delay greatly inconvenienced those
media practitioners whose press cards expired during this period.
Later in the year, the first and only cabinet reshuffle during 2004 saw the minister responsible
for the police, the Minister of Home Affairs and Public Safety Tom Thabane, shifted from the
post to become the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology. The reshuffle
strangely coincided with a controversy heightened over a clause in the Lesotho Broadcasting
Corporation Bill that gives the minister powers to appoint the board and chairman (never
chairperson) of the government-run Lesotho Broadcasting Corporation.
To prevent the probably impact of said clause, MISA-Lesotho spent the year driving a campaign,
in the midst of governmental hostility, to enact a Bill that is aligned to the principle of press
freedom. Government hostility towards the transformation of state media into public service
broadcasters undermines press freedom as it casts doubt on the integrity of efforts to transform
the state broadcaster into a public broadcaster. There was much fear that the board would be
aligned to the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).
So This Is Democracy? 2004


Media Institute of Southern Africa


Government interference in media operations


Relevant democratic institutions - the media ombudsman or a media council - are yet to be
established to counterbalance this repressive situation and promote press freedom.


Since the advent of a multi-party democracy in 1993, there has been little progress in Lesotho
as far as media freedom is concerned. This is reflected by the alarmingly small number of
cases decided in favour of the media. The Lesotho media still has to operate under several
media laws that undermine the principle of media freedom. These laws include the Sedition
Proclamation of 1937 and the Internal Security Act of 1984.


Media and democracy


By Moeti Thelejane
(Moeti Thelejane is a freelance journalist with many years’ experience in the Lesotho print
media industry. He has sub-edited for The Mirror newspaper and The Public Eye newspaper,
the biggest independent media house in Lesotho. He was also the editor of Our Times newspaper
and is a correspondent for the Lesotho Monitor Magazine.)





State of the media in Southern Africa - 2004

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