Lesotho | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Lesotho

Lesotho

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 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 of the press, both of which are provided for in the constitution. However, a 1938 proclamation prohibits criticism of the government and provides for 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 November, the English-language weekly Public Eye was ordered to pay a private businessman, Lebohang Thotanyana, 1.5 million maloti (about US$220,000) for alleged defamation (and the resulting damage to Thotanyana's business); the ruling was issued in the absence of the newspaper's legal representatives. Other libel and defamation proceedings occurred in 2005, some of which were settled out of court. 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 March, two officials of the Lesotho Catholic Bishop's Conference threatened the editor of the tabloid Moeletsi oa Basotho with physical violence and harassment; hosts of the radio talk show Lijo'a Ke Baeti on Catholic Radio were similarly threatened by anonymous callers in July. Several independent newspapers operate freely and routinely criticize the government, while state-owned print and broadcast media mostly 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. In 2005, 1.8 percent of the population accessed the internet, which remains unrestricted by the government.