MISA Lesotho concerned with Harassment of Journalists

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By Itumeleng Koleile

Media Institute of Southern Africa Lesotho issued a statement showing serious concern over media freedom violations threatened following detention and interrogation of a journalist by police on his alleged reporting.

Lebese Molati, a journalist from a 357 FM Radio Station was detained and interrogated by the Pitso Ground and Maseru Central police in connection with his alleged reports about stolen guns at the Mafeteng Police Station and connecting the incident with a certain police officer.

The statement states Molati was detained and interrogated on the 14th November whereat he reported to MISA that he was tortured and suffocated near to death in the hands of the police during interrogation.

“Molati was forced to reveal the whereabouts of a certain police officer he allegedly interviewed, who is at large and the police are hunting,” reads MISA’s statement.

The statement said in the aftermath, Molati was released later on Sunday and no charges had been laid against him.

“While we appreciate a swift reaction by the Commissioner of Police Holomo Molibeli into committing himself to ensure that action will be taken against the police officers who allegedly tortured Molati, as the Commissioner himself appeared puzzled by the incident, we, however, condemn categorically the alleged police brutality and detention of Molati without a charge,” MISA said.

The statement also said Commissioner Molibeli has promised the MISA Chairperson Nkoale Oetsi Ts’oana that he will instigate an inquiry into Molati’s case to establish the identity of the police officers who allegedly assaulted the reporter.

“Molati’s case comes shortly after the attack by unknown gunmen to the family of veteran journalist ‘Marafaele Mohloboli from a Lesotho Times Newspaper on the night of November 9th,” MISA said.

It also states that Mohloboli’s husband was injured during the incident.

Moreover, it was reported that the motive of the attack was unknown, however, MISA called on the security agencies to act on the matter and have perpetrators held accountable.

“We have received several unconfirmed reports of assault and intimidation against other journalists in the past,” reads the statement.

Moreover, the statement revealed that it is quite common that ahead of every National Assembly election, journalists tend to be unlawfully arrested, harassed, assaulted, and tortured by elements of the security agencies and political parties.

MISA called on the relevant authorities in Lesotho to apply more effort on ending impunity on perpetrators of crimes against journalists and media freedom ahead of the 2022 National Elections expected to be upheld around September.