Lesotho drops 8 places on press freedom index

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By Pulane Chaka

Lesotho drops 8 places in the World Press Freedom index from 78th place to 86th owing to continued threats on press freedoms.

In a statement, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Lesotho Chapter’s detailed the state of press freedoms in the Southern African region.

The report said out of 180 countries Lesotho now ranks 86th place in the World Press Freedom Index.

In its report, Misa said media practitioners are subjected to threats and intimidation by authorities as well as by private citizens.

“Journalists face statutory barriers that interfere with their work, including criminal code provisions that bar sedition and offences against the dignity of the royal family,” said the report.

Misa adds journalists within Lesotho are further censored.

“Media practitioners are told they should not write articles on certain figures.

“The Penal Code can be used to demand journalists to reveal sources that results in self-censorship,” reads part of the report.

Misa said censorship of media has gone so far as to have media houses sued for defamation such as the case of Informative newspaper.

“The newspaper was sued at the beginning of 2020 by Defence Director, Lebona Mokopanela, for allegedly publishing statements that were grossly defamatory which ended in the newspaper having to pay M180, 000.00 after it failed to present its argument before the courts and the director received a default judgement,” said the Report.

Misa said the government of Lesotho has gone so far as to propose a law that social media platforms should have “limits which will require all social media users with more than 100 followers to register as internet broadcasters”.

Amid the worrying state of the press freedom, article 14 (1) of Lesotho’s Constitution states that “Every person shall be entitled to, and (except with his own consent) shall be hindered in his enjoyment of, freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference (whether the communication be to the public generally or to any person or class of persons) and freedom from interference without his correspondence.”