Lesotho | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Lesotho

Lesotho

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

42

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

15

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

14

The government generally respects freedom of speech and the press, which is provided for in the constitution. However, a 1938 proclamation prohibits criticism of the government and contains penalties for seditious libel. Extremely high fines have been handed down by the courts in libel cases against publications and radio stations known for criticizing the government, forcing some to the verge of closure. In April, three Lesotho weeklies were the target of a default judgment by the country's high court, leaving one with no computers or equipment. The newspapers had reported on embezzlement allegations against the former chairman of the Media Institute of Lesotho. Journalism groups have urged the government to create a media council or other regulatory body empowered to mediate defamation disputes before they end up in court.

The government periodically attempts to pressure the independent press, and journalists have suffered occasional harassment or attack. In September, police severely beat a freelance journalist, Justice Maqelepo, during a crackdown on street vendors in the capital. The Media Institute of Southern Africa reported that in May the minister of home affairs threatened the editor of a Radio Lesotho current affairs program on the air. Several independent newspapers operate freely and routinely criticize the government, while state-owned print and broadcast media tend to reflect the views of the ruling party. There are four private radio stations, and extensive South African radio and television broadcasts reach Lesotho. Journalists reportedly have trouble gaining free access to official information, and media development is constrained by inadequate funding and resources.