14 February 2007


Previously-harassed journalist receives death threats; others threatened, harassed, accused of "causing confusion"

Incident details

Thabo Thakalekoala, Adam Lekhoada, Molika, Malehloka Lalitapole


(MISA/IFEX) - On 13 February 2007, MISA confirmed that several journalists in Lesotho are being inundated with anonymous threatening calls, and accusations that they are at the forefront of a campaign to cause confusion in the country and within the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD). The targeted journalists, Thabo Thakalekoala and Adam Lekhoada of Harvest FM radio station, Molika of People's Choice (PC) FM radio station, and Malehloka Lalitapole of PC FM radio station, are also accused of promoting negative perceptions about some members of the government of Lesotho.

MISA reported in November 2006 that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) correspondent in Lesotho, Thabo Thakalekoala, who is also MISA's regional chairperson, had been inundated with anonymous threatening calls that complained about his reporting since the former minister of communications, Tom Thabane, defected from the LCD to form the All Basotho Convention (ABC) on 9 October 2006.

On 13 February 2007, Thakalekoala described o MISA an incident that took place in the early hours of 10 February, and that prompted him to fear for his life and the safety of his family. According to Thakalekoala, he awoke to loud banging on his front door at approximately 1:00 a.m. (local time). His harassers called to him to open the door to receive a gift: a tombstone intended to "minimise the cost of his funeral" as he would die before the scheduled elections on 17 February, they told him. When he refused to venture outside, his harassers responded by warning him that his "days were numbered" and that his wife and children would soon be mourning his passing.

"I fear for my life. I don't know what is going to happen if the LCD is voted back into power", he confessed to MISA. Previous elections, in 1998 and 2002, were marred by political violence and a prayer initiative by local churches is meant to ensure peace and stability during the upcoming elections.

Thakalekoala has since registered an official statement with the police. Members of the Lesotho Police have questioned eyewitnesses.

In a related incident, journalist Adam Lekhoada was summoned by local police to produce certified travelling documents. According to them, his citizenship was in question and therefore his right to freely practice journalism in Lesotho. Lekhoada complied with the request on 13 February.

MISA is currently arranging for armed security personnel to guard the homes of the affected journalists.

MISA condemns the reported attempts by members of the public to intimidate media professionals who, by virtue of their profession, are required to report accurately and truthfully on all aspects of life in the Kingdom of Lesotho.

At this juncture, MISA appeals to Police Commissioner Malejaka Letooane to make all necessary attempts to ensure the safety of the journalists. As citizens of the Kingdom of Lesotho, the journalists are also entitled to undertake their newsgathering and dissemination duties in a safe environment.

Furthermore, MISA appeals to the Lesotho nation to practice tolerance for diverse political views and affiliation among the peoples of the Kingdom and, further still, to promote an environment which is conducive to media freedom and freedom of expression.


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