Yesterday’s complete destruction of Tšenolo FM by unknown assailants was not only an attack on the fledgling radio station but an assault on press freedom in Lesotho.
Four assailants, who are yet to be identified, stormed the Ha Mabote-based radio station just before midday yesterday and within minutes, had completely destroyed Mohau Kobile’s brainchild, as well as the livelihoods of about 20 employees.
The motive of the attack is not yet known, but Kobile believes he could be the victim of a powerful politician aggrieved by his station’s editorial thrust and coverage of political developments in the country.
This allegation, we believe, could form part of the police investigations which the Lesotho Mounted Police Service has assured us were started soon after the four thugs pounced on the 19-month-old radio station.
Yet it is the brazen nature of the attack, which took place in broad daylight in a busy complex, and left one of the presenters injured and extremely traumatised, that should be cause for concern to every citizen of this country.
Tšokolo Toi, who was stabbed below the right eye and severely assaulted all over the body in the attack, narrated how the men barged into the station and attacked him without stating what crime he had committed—or why they were looking for Kobile — before they launched the vicious and unprovoked attack.
In addition to assaulting Toi, the four thugs had no qualms in wrecking the station, and rendering very expensive broadcasting material and office equipment inoperative again.
However, this attack should not be taken lightly by the relevant authorities as it has the danger of setting a very dangerous precedent in our very promising democracy.
It is only when the media operates without fear or favour that a country’s democracy can be enhanced — and public officials held accountable for their actions.
But when terror tactics are employed to silence journalists, which we don’t want to believe could be why Tšenolo FM was so savagely destroyed yesterday, it should be cause for worry not only to the country’s media fraternity but the entire nation.
What is also worrying about yesterday’s violence was it left many families without sources of income, and also destroyed a promising business venture which was contributing to the country’s economy and providing the much-needed employment for this country.
It is our hope that the police will move swiftly to ensure the arrest of the culprits and everyone who might have anything to do with the attack.
Only when the culprits are behind bars that the media fraternity — and the nation at large — would be assured of protection under the law.
On so many occasions, the police have failed to swiftly apprehend perpetrators of such crime, which has eroded the confidence the nation has in its law-enforcement agencies.
It is our sincere hope it would not be the case in this instance, and also that many other such crimes would also be successfully prosecuted by the relevant authorities.