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MISA Lesotho condemns legal actions against newspapers


Staff Reporter

The Lesotho Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Lesotho), has expressed deep concern regarding the initiation of legal actions against media outlets operating within the country.

“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, in a recent statement.

The statement specifically addressed defamation suits brought against Lesotho Tribune by Mergence Lesotho, as well as the threat of a lawsuit against Newsday by Tholo Energy.

Last month Newsday published an exposé on a damning South African High Court judgment, which dismissed Tholo Energy Services CC’s appeal for a substantial tax refund from the South African Revenue Services (SARS), totalling over M4 million.

Newsday’s article dissected the court ruling, exposing what it described as a “meticulously crafted scheme” by Tholo Energy Services CC, incorporated in South Africa, to unlawfully claim tax refunds from SARS.

Prompted by the damning article, Thabiso Moroahae and his companies’ legal team from Tsabeha & Associates, penned a scathing letter to Newsday, demanding a retraction of the article and a formal apology.

“Should you fail to comply with the demand stated above, we have instructions to issue summons for damages for defamation, in the amount M20, 000, 000 without any further notice, and to seek suspension of your licence and/or any appropriate relief,” the  lawyers stated in the letter.

Newsday refused to retract the article and offer apology.

“An independent and unfettered press is indispensable to the functioning of a democratic society. The role of the media in fostering public discourse, promoting transparency, and holding power to account cannot be overstated,” stated Boloetse in a statement on Wednesday.

MISA Lesotho 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 organizations in a reactionary manner strains their already limited resources and jeopardises their ability to sustain daily operations,” noted Boloetse.

The statement further called for the expedited implementation of the long overdue comprehensive national reforms aimed at establishing a Media Ombudsman, emphasising the importance of impartial resolution of complaints against journalists and media enterprises.

It said the reforms are crucial to achieving impartial, speedy, and cost-effective resolution of complaints against journalists and media enterprises, thereby fostering an environment of transparency and accountability without fear or favour.

“Furthermore, MISA Lesotho stresses the importance of ensuring that these reforms explicitly enshrine press freedom and access to information within Chapter 2 of the Lesotho Constitution, which enumerates fundamental freedoms and rights,” Boloetse said.

He said such constitutional protections are essential safeguards for the integrity of the media and the preservation of democratic principles.

“We urge all journalists, media workers, and media houses across the country to stand in solidarity and defend press freedom. An injury to one is an injury to all,” concluded Boloetse.

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