Lesotho media throttled ahead of poll

Lesotho Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili (source: google)

By Sechaba Mokhethi

Hours to a perilous elections day, one of Lesothos prominent commercial radio stations has been taken off air in what critics view as a move to stifle anti-government information.

On Friday evening, Harvest FM was cut off air just before their hard hitting political programme Tsa Mabatooa, loosely translated, the voice from the constituencies, programme which puts individual Members of Parliament on the spotlight over development and welfare efforts in their respective constituencies.

Media freedom in Lesotho has recently been under intimidation with radio stations taken off-air in what has been construed as a move by government move to stifle growing dissent.

Harvest FM is well-known for minute-by-minute current affairs reports on political and social affairs, and is regarded in government quarters as peddling opposition agenda.

Lesothos commercial radios are all connected to the state-owned Lesotho National Broadcasting Services (LNBS) transmitters, which are directly controlled by government through the ministry of communications, science and technology.

The station was cut off air 10 hours before voting begins in Lesotho. This happened immediately after presenter Nkosana Kunene introduced content in the three-hour political programme.

Hours off air the stations proprietor, ‘Malichaba Lekhoaba, told the African Independent that findings revealed the unexpected shutdown was not borne by internal technical problems, insisting the radio was deliberately switched off from the transmitters at the Lancers Gap to sabotage its operations.

Our team has discovered that one government engineer, Napo Ralitoele, who was on duty at the same time that our station was cut off had suspiciously disappeared after the incident, she said, adding that she was in the process of getting hold of relevant officials to establish the reason for the shutdown.

Media suppression, a crackdown on radio stations and incessant threats to journalists have in recent times become prominent in the country moving towards tomorrows elections.

This despite the declared founding principle of the outgoing seven-party coalition government that committed to developing the countrys media sector by developing a media policy that would enhance media freedom. Until it was unseated through a motion of no confidence on March 1, government had not moved an inch to make the commitment a reality.

June 2017
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