1 October 1998


Independent newspapers suffer heavy losses as a result of political turmoil; urgent appeal for assistance; public broadcaster forced to close because of political crisis

Incident details


(MISA/IFEX) - According to MISA, most of the independent newspapers in
Lesotho have suffered heavy losses following the political turmoil which
gripped the country earlier this month. Newspapers were affected by property
destruction, looting and/or theft in the capital city, Maseru.

Two weekly newspapers, "The Southern Star" and "MoAfrika", suffered the
worst losses when, after all their equipment had been looted, the buildings
they occupied were burnt to the ground. Four other independent English
newspapers, "The Mirror", "Mopheme - The Survivor", "Public Eye" and "The
Sun/Thebe", while being spared from having their buildings destroyed, had
all their equipment, including computers, scanners, cameras, fax equipment
and other small items, stolen by looters.

The looters appeared to have targeted any office or building in the absence
of any law-enforcement in the city, with most offices having been ransacked.
Where they could not gain entry into a building, the buildings were burnt
down. At least two newspapers, "Mopheme" and "Public Eye", had members of
their staff ordered to vacate their offices
at gun point.

The Media Institute of Lesotho (MILES) is appealing for all kinds of
assistance for its members in order for them to begin publishing again.
MILES notes that the media has been affected at a crucial juncture in the
country's political history, and where a strong media facilitating the free
flow of information is particularly crucial. Most newspapers have no hope of
publishing again without assistance. The publishers have also indicated that
their insurance will not pay for things destroyed or stolen during war or a
public riot.

Following are the estimates of both the destroyed and stolen equipment:

The "Sun/Thebe", "MoAfrika", "Southern Star", "Public Eye", "Mopheme-The

A) "MoAfrika":

The whole office destroyed by fire

1. Paper duplication machine

1. Four office desks

2. Two chairs and two benches

3. Wooden drawer cabinet

4. Two Mac computers

5. One Mac with internet facility

6. Two Mac printers

7. One laser printer

8. Wall to wall filing cabinet

9. Library

10. Stationery cabinet

11. Fax machine

12. 2 telephone sets

13. R50 000 liquid cash [South African Rands are used as the currency
throughout this list. 1 R is equivalent to approximately US 17 cents, or 10
R = US$ 1.70. Lesotho's currency, the Maluti, has the same value as the

14. Radio recorder double deck

15. Five pentax cameras

16. Three zoom lenses

17. Photographs

18. Films

19. Ricoh camera lens filters

20. Three heaters

21. One lap top Mac

22. Floppy diskettes

Sub-TOTAL estimates = R 250 000.00

B) "Southern Star":

The whole office destroyed by fire

subtotal estimates = R 300 000.00

C) "The Sun & Thebe":

Stolen equipment and ransacked

subtotal estimates = R 60 000.00

D) "Public Eye":

Stolen Equipment and ransacked

1.1 x Power Macintosh G3 Desktop 233 MHz, 120 Mb Ram, R 18 500 4 Ob Hard
Drive, 1.0 GB, 24 x CD Rom Drive, 10Base-T, 512K Cache, keyboard & Mouse
2.1 x ArtMedia20" TrinitronMonitor R 9 200

3. 1 x QMS 2060 Gx postscript & PCL 5 printer - A3 oversize (24MB) 20ppm
printer, 250 sheet A3 paper tray std, & manual feed (150 sheets A4/A3
paper), 600 Dpi A3 and A4, upgradeable 32 Mb simms), parallel & ethernet
ports, serial & local talk opt. Image Server (1200dpi), HD & 2 sided duplex,
and Transceiver R 32 250

4.1 x Panasonic Digital messaging system fax R 4 670

5.1 x DeskJet colour (A4) printer R 6 000

6.1 x Pc (Mac compatible) 24x R 14 000

7.1 x Canon Camera & 135mm&24mm R 11 200

8.1 x Minolta Camera 9000,100exp.backEB90 R 6 000

9.300 mm zoom, 600 mm zoom, 24mm zoom, 135 mm zoom, program flash 4000Af,
2800AF R 23 000

10. A4 Colour Copiers R15000

(some small items such as papers, cash boxes, books, binding machines,
heater, Internet facility, diskettes etc. were also stolen) R20 180

subtotal Damage R160000 .00

5. "Mopheme-The Survivor":

Stolen Equipment and ransacked

1 x Scanner 6100c R6,000.00

1 x Computer (Leo pentium) R5,300.00

1 x Praktika Camera with flash and gun R1,800.00

Cash locked-in when Agric Bank was closed and has since been pending
transfer to Lesotho Bank about R5600.00

Others (small office items) R1,500.00

subtotal R20,200.00


In other news from Lesotho, the state-owned Radio Lesotho fell silent for
nine days from 14 September 1998, after supporters of the opposition parties
coerced all workers and civil servants to stay away from their duties.
Although journalists at the public radio were not specifically targeted,
they did receive death threats warning them against continuing with their
duties. The radio was re-opened on 23 September following intervention from
forces from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), who took up
positions outside the radio to ensure that workers and journalists could
continue with their duties.


Media Institute of Southern Africa
21 Johann Albrecht Street
Private Bag 13386
misaalerts (@) gmail.com
Fax:+264 61 248016
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