Lesotho | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Lesotho

Lesotho

Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

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

46

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

19

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

14

The media environment worsened in 2007, particularly during the run-up to and aftermath of snap elections in February. The government generally respects freedoms 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 penalties for seditious libel. In recent years, 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. Several such libel suits were initiated by government officials in 2007. Journalism groups have urged the government to create a media council or some other regulatory body empowered to mediate defamation disputes before they end up in court. No such body currently exists.

The government periodically attempts to pressure the independent press, and journalists have suffered occasional harassment or attack. In the run-up to February’s election, journalists at Harvest FM and People’s Choice FM were threatened and accused of “causing confusion.” According to Reporters Sans Frontieres, Harvest FM has been targeted by the government as the “headquarters” of the opposition All Basotho Convention party; the station was shut down for two days while election results were announced. Host Adam Lekhoaba was deported to South Africa after the elections, though he later returned to Lesotho after proving his citizenship. In June, Harvest FM’s Thabo Thakalekoala was arrested for treason after his on-the-air reading of a letter attacking Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili; the host claimed he was forced to read the letter after death threats were made against him. The government later canceled its advertising with the station and a separate private newspaper, Public Eye, claiming that both were aligned with the opposition.

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 many South African and other foreign radio and television broadcasts reach Lesotho, but there is no private television station. Journalists reportedly have trouble gaining free access to official information, and media development is constrained by inadequate funding and resources. In 2007, less than 0.5 percent of the population accessed the internet, which remains unrestricted but monopolized by a government carrier.