Lesotho's media restricted during turbulent political times

Expression

Over the last several months, government scrutiny over private media content grew as the political situation became more volatile. On 14th February 2017, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) boycotted World Radio Day Commemorations to show solidarity with People’s Choice (PC) and Tšenolo FM private radio stations, both of which had been taken off the air by the government the previous week. The two radio stations were forced to suspend operations for allegedly broadcasting material deemed to be defamatory of the Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, and other senior government officials. The Lesotho High Court subsequently ordered that the radio stations be allowed to resume broadcasting. In an interview with Lesotho media, the director of the Lesotho Chapter of MISA, Tsebo Mat'sasa, expressed concern over the media situation in the country and declared that MISA and its partners would continue to closely monitor and report on any developments. 

On 1st March 2017, the Lesotho Chapter of MISA reported that police had removed journalists from the Parliament's press gallery to a public gallery during a vote of no confidence over Mosisili's government. In addition, on 10th March 2017, police summoned Rets’epile Maloi, a political reporter from Tšenolo FM, for questioning over material and content in Maloi's programmes that featured debates and discussions with guests representing diverse political backgrounds and opinions. 

Association

In March 2017, the Lesotho Police Staff Association filed an urgent plea with the Constitutional Court, challenging the dismissal of its members from their stations for allegedly attending political rallies organised by one of the country's political parties - All Basotho Convention Party. Other police officers were dismissed for displaying political party logos, while some were accused of playing political party songs at a police station. According to section 66(1) of the 1998 Police Act, the police are expected to be non-partisan. Dr. Hoolo Nyane, who is representing the officers in the case, has argued that the police are being unfairly targeted on contested allegations. Moreover, penalising the officers is a violation of their right to freedom of association, as Nyane declared in a statement on the officers' case:

“I have been advised and verily believe same to be true that members of the police service have human rights like any other member of the public. This section [66(1)] deprives the police officers the freedom of association which is inseparable from other political rights like the right to vote".

Peaceful Assembly

In February 2017, the authorities limited large gatherings of citizens in public places ahead of a vote of no confidence in the Parliament over Mosilili's coalition government. As the political situation in the country became more tense and uncertain, the police warned citizens against crowding at the airport to greet returning exiled politicians and going to the Maseru border with South Africa, through which exiled opposition leaders were re-entering the country.