Mafa Moleko & Seabata Mahao
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Lesotho) has shown dissatisfaction toward the inhuman actions spearheaded by the Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS) and other relevant sectors in power that hinders freedom of press in Lesotho.
Monday this week a statement inked by the member of the MISA National Governing Council (NGC) Boitumelo Koloi raised a point of concern on the swelling numbers of media violations against journalists and media personals with their organisations.
The statement further expresses a point of disappointment when the media fraternity is threatened by the law enforcement unit, the police which by its virtue is expected to offer protection.
â€œWhile violations against the media have been a recurring national phenomenon over the years, it is quite disheartening to note that as the wheels of development perambulate and move forward in other parts, ours seem to be either on a stagnant or reverse motion thus placing Lesotho way behind even the youngest of democracies almost six decades post its independenceâ€ Koloi said.
He added that even though there is development in some areas, it however seem like the media part is stuck and not showing any development. He said this pulls Lesotho back in terms of enhancing the media freedom and freedom of speech as compared to other countries that values media freedom.
He said they (MISA) are aware that some media houses that endanger the sector by playing into enemy territory. He said these media houses and individuals are working without considering the ethics of professionalism.
â€œIt is worth noting that if and when media play to the wrong audience or dance to the tune of politicians or other influencers they become compromised thus endangering the sector,â€ he said.
The statement showed great disappointment that when the country has begun to put some motion towards paving a new path and turning new paths through the national reforms, then some uncalled-for violations are taking place. MISA says this presents the country of Lesotho as something of a lost cause taking one step forward and taking more backwards.
In the statement, MISA enunciated a number of violations meted against media personnel and their houses including one in which a local radio programme host Lebese Molati disclosed how had been called-in for questioning by police who had assaulted and choked him to near-death.
â€œThe police who were accused of assaulting and torturing Molati are yet to be brought to book. Commissioner of Police Holomo Molibeli, however, said action would be taken against the police officers who allegedly tortured Molati. As a result of the attack, it was our contention that he would open a case of assault against the perpetrators but that also was not to be hence the hooligans masquerading as police officers continue to roam the streets possibly to inflict their onslaught on their next unsuspecting and community serving journalist,â€ Koloi said.
Koloi continued that on November 17, 2021 the offices of Peopleâ€™s Choice (PCFM) were invaded. In this incident the station manager and Teboho Ratalana were subjected questioning.
According to MISA the attacks on journalists are even more concerning for they came just when Lesotho is about to engage in 2022 elections.
â€œThe National Assembly General Elections set for 2022 as they bring into question the countryâ€™s state of democracy and how the custodians of same are committed to their work.
â€œThey also cast aspersions on the indisputability of the countryâ€™s commitment to media reforms as part of the National Reforms. MISA urges authorities to guarantee and ensure the safety and security of journalists and media workers in the country. The police officers on a drive to terrorize journalists and media workers must be investigated and duly be brought to book for their unlawful actions,â€ he said.
Meanwhile, in a move to water down MISA-Lesothoâ€™s concerns of police brutality especially on journalists, Police Spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli rebuffed the claims which he labeled unfounded propaganda meant to tarnish the policeâ€™s image.
According to Mopeli radio journalist Teboho Ratalane had been engaged in a friendly talk by the police and nothing brutal while Molati has since been asked to officially lodge his complaint by opening a case which has also not happened.
He mentioned that the police had since Molati to report to the police headquarters in order to open a case as well as investigate the depth of the incidents where he claims to have been tortured by the police so that disciplinary action could be duly effected against those who tortured him. He further said that the reason they understand Ratalane not to have opened a case was because he feels there is no need to talk about the incidents. Mopeli also explained that it is every Mosothoâ€™s right to assist the police with investigations no matter their position or title of work.
â€œLMPS works in harmony with media practitioners and can never brutalise or torture the media practitioners. The police will always be available to communicate with the media where there is misinformation or doubtfulness of facts in order to work together for the public good and where media practitioners were done wrong by the police they can always report to the headquarters,â€ Mopeli said.