- Lesotho's Minister of Home Affairs and Public Safety, Thomas Motsoahae Thabane, has received massive criticisms from media organisations for threatening a state radio journalist. His furious reactions to media reporting these complaints have only resulted in harder criticism.
On Monday, Minister Thabane, contacted the chairperson of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)-Lesotho, with regard to a front page article that appeared in 'The Mirror' newspaper - entitled "Thabane gets slap in the face" - MISA headquarters in Windhoek (Namibia) reports.
The article in 'The Mirror' had made reference to an incident where the Minister publicly denounced 'Radio Lesotho' current affairs editor, Nthabeleng Sefako on air. The basis of the recent 'Mirror' article was an example that was cited at the 10th meeting of the Press Club of Lesotho, where MISA Lesotho was officially launching its campaign for the transformation of radio Lesotho into a public broadcaster.
The MISA Lesotho Information and Research Officer, Tom Mapesela, cited the actions of the Minister Thabane against Ms Sefako as an example which illustrated the need to transform the state owned radio into a public broadcaster.
However, 'The Mirror' had wrongfully reported that the Chairperson of MISA Lesotho, rather than the information officer had made the example. The Minister thus was seeking further clarification from the chairperson with regard to this issue and the chairperson has requested 'The Mirror' to publish a correction of the statements made at the Press Club meeting.
'The Mirror' sub-editor, Tlali Caswell, has acknowledged the mistake and has undertaken to publish a correction in this week's edition of the newspaper.
- Nevertheless, regardless of whether the information officer or the chairperson was quoted, the fact remains, MISA said in a statement released today: "MISA Lesotho's position is that the Minister's utterances were tantamount to a violation of media freedom."
The incident in question happened almost one month ago, as Ms Sefako was threatened on the air by Minister Thabane. Ms Sefako is editor of Radio Lesotho's popular current affairs phone-in programme called 'Seboping', and had infuriated the Minister by the fact that the programme had been shortened to provide paid advertising space to the Lesotho Revenue Authority.
During the programme that was hosted by Mr. Tale Kopeli, Minister Thabane claimed that Ms Sefako needed to be "sorted out". "She is a mere civil servant and yet she wants to dictate to me, a whole cabinet minister, how long my programme should be. Does she know that I came here as per government mandate?" the minister fumed. He promised that he would "keep a close eye on her."
This incident "emphasises the dangers of government interference in editorial content and programme outline of state broadcasters," MISA repeated in its statement released today.
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