THE Journalists Union of Lesotho (JUL) has urged the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) to investigate last week’s harassment of reporters during the party’s press conference and to protect scribes from their supporters.
JUL has made the call after LCD supporters insulted and intimidated journalists during a press briefing on the arrest and detention of party deputy leader Tšeliso Mokhosi on Tuesday last week.
Mr Mokhosi has since been charged with murdering Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng along with four police officers. The former Defence minister was released on Monday and now awaits trial.
PC Khetheng died under mysterious circumstances after being arrested by his colleagues at a traditional feast in Sebothoane, Leribe on 25 March 2016.
Journalists who attended the press conference at the LCD’s headquarters in Maseru were met with scores of irate party supporters who demanded proof of the scribes’ identities, saying there were some people they didn’t want at the briefing.
The Lesotho Times crew was also ordered to identify themselves to a coterie of LCD supporters who vowed that only a few selected media practitioners would be allowed at the briefing.
Journalists who arrived at the press briefing late were unable to enter the building after the door was closed to prevent the agitated supporters from also entering.
As the briefing went on, the LCD supporters knocked on the door, demanding to participate in the press conference while others sang.
LCD spokesperson Teboho Sekata, his deputy Apesi Ratšele, youth league secretary-general Potso Shao and party elder Khotso Matla were left with no option but to end the press conference and attempted to calm down their restive supporters.
The LCD officials had to escort the journalists out of the party premises as the supporters hurled unprintable insults at the scribes.
In a statement issued earlier this week, JUL called for an investigation into the incident.
“JUL finds it wrong that LCD members attacked and frustrated journalists while on duty. We are therefore, requesting that this matter be investigated and rightful measures be taken by LCD authorities against those LCD members,” the journalists union said.
“The union also wishes to remind the LCD authorities that journalists have a right to perform their duties without being threatened by any person and we therefore strongly urge the leadership of the party to ensure safety of journalists while attending their press conferences.”
For his part, Mr Sekata said he was yet to receive the statement.
“There are so many press conferences in which journalists have been harassed by party supporters, yet not even once have I heard of JUL issuing statements that perpetrators should be brought to book,” he said in an interview with this paper.
“So, I am quite amazed by such a statement. But, because we haven’t received such a statement, let me comment on the issue when we have received it and know what it entails.”