Lesotho govt accused of media censorship

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The Government of Lesotho has been under heavy criticism for shutting down a private radio station that is seen to be anti-government.

But the government has defended its decision citing the current security volatility as the sole purpose of its drastic action on Moafrika FM.

Pictures of the chief editor of Moafrika FM, Candy Ramainoane, being wrestled to the ground began circulating on social media recently.

Ramainoane had attended a case in which his station had been temporarily shut down by government for broadcasting “inciting statements”. Lesotho gov. Comms min. #Joang_Molapo says they “have no interest in censoring media, but concerned wit security” @Sophie_Mokoena @SABCTVNews — Rapelang Radebe (@ntateRaps) September 19, 2017

Ramainoane says, “Before the closing of Parliament, Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane, had made an announcement in parliament … on the 24th and 26th that he was giving latitude to the police that they should beat suspects whenever they were out of sight. Once they come back to the public, they should stop beating those people and smile with them as if nothing has happened.”

The government says it has no interest in censoring media, but will take action if the Kingdom’s security is at stake.

Communications, Science and Technology Minister Joang Molapo says, “We pointed out to him what exactly the issues and actions he undertook and what we considered as of threat to the security of the country. Then we asked him to kindly avoid those issues, especially when what you are talking about is not the truth about what happened.”

“It’s one thing for us to defend a truthful interpretations of events, but when somebody presents something completely false [and] is so sensational, that is going to cause distress in the general population, with the situation in the country; we have to take an action and put things right.”

National Director of MISA Lesotho, Tsebo Mat’sasa says, “We are sure that Moafrika has some issues it has to look into … more especially given [the] fact that Lesotho currently, most of the issues and information that people do talk about emanates from the media, and the media handling of such information has to be professional. It has to add value in attempts to build peace in Lesotho and to ensure stability and security in the kingdom of Lesotho.”

Amnesty International and other organizations issued strong statements that allegations on Moafrika were “spurious and nothing more than a witch-hunt” while others say Moafrika FM needs to be more responsible in its reporting.

The station was suspended for 72 hours, but is yet to appear before court to account for its remarks that government deems threatening to and stability of the country.

– By Rapelang Radebe