Mokete’s bodyguards condemned for harassing journalist

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Staff Reporter

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho has condemned the bodyguards of Deputy Police Commissioner Paseka Mokete for manhandling the Lesotho Times’s photographer, Thabelo Monamane, at the Maseru Magistrates Court this week.

Mr Monamane was covering DCP Mokete’s court appearance on charges of sexually assaulting a junior female police officer when his seemingly unmannered bodyguards manhandled him and demanded that he deletes all the pictures of DCP Mokete he had taken in court because the senior police officer “does not like to have his pictures taken”.

The two overzealous bodyguards accosted Mr Monamane soon after the Tuesday court appearance and demanded that deletes the pictures. The melee that ensued attracted several onlookers at court.

Narrating his ordeal, Mr Monamane said shortly before the adjournment of proceedings, he had seen DCP Mokete engaging in a discussion with his bodyguards.

“They were pointing at me. I knew then that they wanted me to delete the pictures. I have been in similar situations where I was asked to delete pictures,” said Mr Monamane.

“I found the two bodyguards waiting for me outside the courtroom. The first one pleaded that I delete the pictures because DCP Mokete did not want his pictures taken. I said I would do so. I only said this so that they would let me go.

“The other bodyguard was more menacing and said I could not fool him by claiming that I had deleted the pictures. He said he had seen me removing the memory card from my camera and asked whether I considered their demand to delete the pictures a mere joke.

“He said they were not here to play with me. I was however, saved by the presence of the large number of onlookers who surrounded me as I was being harrased. They eventually let me go without confiscating my camera or making me delete the pictures.”

MISA Lesotho condemned the incident and called upon the police and other government institutions to respect and uphold the freedom of journalists to work without harassment and intimidation.

Lesotho Times editor, Herbert Moyo, said it was worrying that the police were harassing journalists instead of protecting them and allowing them to do their work freely.

“The media should be allowed to operate freely without fear of harassment and intimidation.  It is therefore worrying if law enforcement officers who are supposed to offer such protection become the perpetrators of violence and intimidation of journalists,” Mr Moyo said.

MISA Lesotho director, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, said they were preparing to petition the government over the ill-treatment of journalists.

“We condemn the harassment of Mr Monamane by DCP Mokete’s bodyguards. Journalists are allowed by courts to take pictures and they should not be intimidated by anyone while doing their work.

“We intend to make a statement to remind those in power that Lesotho signed several international protocols committing itself to protect journalists’ freedom of expression.

“We want to take the Registrar of the High Court and Court of Appeal (Advocate ‘Mathato Sekoai) to task about the harassment of journalists at the courts. We are not happy about what happened to Mr Monamane and other journalists,” Mr Ntsukunyane said.

Africa Media Holdings (AMH), the publisher of the Lesotho Times, said in a statement the sooner DCP Mokete and his bodyguards dropped their thuggery and acquainted themselves with the role of the media the better for themselves.

“A court is a public place and the media has a right to record everything that happens there.  We promise DCP Mokete that we shall be in full force at his next court appearance and perform our right and obligation of taking as many photographs of him as possible and splash them across our news pages and those of our syndicated partner publications around the world.

“If his bodyguards misbehave again, our rights shall be fully reserved. If DCP Mokete does not want his photos taken, he should happily quit his public profession and quarantine himself as a private citizen in his home. We guarantee we will never visit him at his private quarters to take his photos because we have no right to enter private places to take photos. But as long as we find him at a public place like a court, our cameras will be on hand. The sooner he educates himself and his bodyguards about basic media etiquette the better.”

 

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