Lesotho, officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a landlocked country in southern Africa completely surrounded by South Africa. Lesotho is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The Lesotho Government is a parliamentary or constitutional monarchy. The Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, is head of government and has executive authority. The King of Lesotho, Letsie III, serves a largely ceremonial function; he no longer possesses any executive authority and is prohibited from actively participating in political initiatives.
Prime Minister: Pakalitha Mosisili; King: Letsie III
Official Language: Sesotho (Sotho); English
Population: 2.074 million (2013) World Bank
National Anthem: Lesotho Fatse La Bantata
Media and Freedom of Expression Landscape in Lesotho
The constitution of Lesotho protects basic civil liberties, including freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of religion. Thus, although the constitution has no explicit laws regarding freedom of the press, this freedom is enjoyed by journalists and media practitioners. And as with other African countries such as Ghana, Lesotho’s media landscape is characterized by state owned media – Radio Lesotho – and private media. Radio is the most popular medium of mass communication in the country. This could probably be because there is only one television station in the country and even this one is government owned.
Although the government of Lesotho generally respects media freedom and the private media freely criticises the government, the threat of defamation suits has led to self-censorship. Several journalists are occasionally harassed, threatened and attacked during media coverage. Aside these defamation suits, the private media relies on the government for funding there by questioning the independence of its work.
Moreover, several laws such as the Sedition Proclamation and the Internal Security (General) Act prevents criticism of government; permits the hauling of journalist before judges on charges of seditious libel and makes it almost impossible for journalists to protect their sources.
In order to ensure professionalism, there are a number of media regulatory bodies in Lesotho, for instance, the Broadcasting Disputes Resolution Panel was established in 2013. This body was tasked with resolving disputes which arise as a result of broadcast content. It was also mandated to develop a broadcasting code which it successfully did in 2014.
Professional media bodies in the country are the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Media Institute of South Africa (MISA), News Share Foundation and the some journalists are members of the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA).
For more information on FoE in Lesotho, visit: Freedom House.