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Amnesty International condemns threats against Lesotho Tribune proprietor

Business

Staff Reporter

Amnesty International (AI) has condemned the recent wave of harassment, intimidation, and threats directed at Phafane Nkotsi, a journalist and proprietor of the Lesotho Tribune.

The organisation labeled the actions as a direct assault on freedom of expression and media freedom.

Tigere Chagutah, AI’s regional director for East and Southern Africa, minced no words in denouncing the disturbing incidents, stating in a statement yesterday: “The threatening notes found at the premises of Lesotho Tribune are despicable and designed to send a chilling message to journalists and the media. This attack on freedom of expression and media freedom must stop.”

Furthermore, Chagutah pointed to a possible motive behind the targeting of Nkotsi, linking it to recent publications by the Lesotho Tribune uncovering allegations of corruption within the Public Officers Defined Contribution Fund.

“Amnesty International believes that Phafane Nkotsi has been targeted in relation to recent publication by the Lesotho Tribune of allegations of corruption at the Public Officers Defined Contribution Fund (the pension fund),” Chagutah said.

AI urged authorities to take swift action to ensure the safety and security of Nkotsi and his family.

“Authorities must promptly, independently and impartially investigate reports of harassment, intimidation and threats against Phafane Nkotsi, and bring those responsible to justice in fair trials,” Chagutah said.

He added: “Lesotho authorities must publicly condemn the harassment, intimidation, threats, and attacks against Phafane Nkotsi, the Lesotho Tribune and other journalists, and ensure all journalists can work without fear of reprisals.”

On April 17, 2024, according to AI, staff members at the Lesotho Tribune found three notes on newsroom desks, which read: “Stay away from Pension Fund issues if you still value peace in your household NJ Phafane, your beautiful [redacted] is doing an amazing job on you.”

It said this was not the first time Nkotsi had been targeted in connection with his work as a journalist and proprietor of Lesotho Times.

On January 2024 28 and 4 February 2024, the Lesotho Tribune published two articles as part of an eight-part investigative series on how Mergence Investment Managers and Cadient Partners Lesotho allegedly @entrenched their interests at the Pension Fund since 2011, significantly prejudicing the Fund and its members”.

Mergence Investment Managers filed an urgent application to the High Court of Lesotho seeking, among other things, to prohibit the Lesotho Tribune from publishing further articles in the series — an application that was later dismissed by the court.

The Lesotho Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Lesotho), earlier this year voiced concern over the legal actions initiated against media outlets, particularly the Lesotho Tribune.

“MISA Lesotho acknowledges the right of individuals and entities to seek legal recourse for perceived grievances. However, we must carefully consider the broader implications of such actions on the principles of press freedom and democratic discourse,” stated Kananelo Boloetse, MISA Lesotho Chairperson.

Boloetse stressed the detrimental impact of legal action on media outlets, stating that such measures not only hinder their ability to fulfill their societal mandate but also pose a threat to the principles of free speech and open dialogue.

“Resorting to legal action against media organisations in a reactionary manner strains their already limited resources and jeopardises their ability to sustain daily operations,” noted Boloetse.

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