Press freedom under attack: MISA

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Bereng Mpaki

THE Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho says press freedom in the country is under threat.

This after the government drafted laws which affect the operations of the media without consulting stakeholders in the media for their input.

MISA-Lesotho chairperson, Nkoale Oetsi Tšoana, made the claims this week in Maseru. Mr Tšoana said this is the wake of parliament’s rejection of the Computer Crimes and Cyber Security Bill, 2021 as well as the Communications (Subscriber Identity Module and Mobile Device Registration) Regulations, 2021.

Legislators said both pieces of legislation had to be revisited this time with input from various stakeholders who had not been consulted when the regulations were drafted by former Communications, Science and Technology Minister Keketso Sello.

MISA Lesotho said it was not consulted in the development of the two pieces of legislation.

Addressing journalists in Maseru, Mr Tšoana said ignoring the media in the drafting of laws which affect their operations suggested that the government has a sinister agenda to repress the sector.

“The exclusion of the media in the stakeholder consultations of laws affecting it is a threat to press freedom,” Mr Tšoana said, adding that they were only informed about the proposed laws after they had been tabled in parliament.

“We were blindsided as both sets of regulations were developed without the input of MISA Lesotho.

“The omission gives us reason to believe the media is the target for these draconian laws with stringent provisions and heavy penalties which journalists cannot afford. Chances of journalists being jailed under these laws after they are passed is high because of their line of work.

Earlier this week, National Independent Party (NIP) leader, Kimetso Mathaba, told fellow MPs that the computer crimes Bill should have been discussed with the media as they are its primary consumers.

He further said that the registration of sim cards provided for in the communications regulations would also negatively affect media freedom as their private communications would be accessible to law enforcement authorities.

“Media privacy will be threatened by this requirement since journalists’ conversations with whistle blowers will be made available to the government without prior permission from the courts of law. News sources will no longer be free to talk to the media as their cover will be blown.

“We are not against the proposed laws. We just want the regulations to be crafted in good faith and not be used to target the media,” Mr Tšoana said.

He said MISA Lesotho was ready to provide its inputs to the regulations.

Also present at the press conference was the MISA national director, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, and former chairperson, Boitumelo Koloi.

 

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