THE Media Institute of Southern Africa-Lesotho chapter (MISA) on Monday boycotted the commemoration of World Radio Day in solidarity with People’s Choice (PC) and Tšenolo FM radios which were temporarily taken off-air by the government last week.
The radio stations were switched off last Thursday for allegedly broadcasting material that was defamatory to Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and senior government officials.
According to PC FM Station Manager Khauta Mpeqa it all started when they provided the family of Alliance of Democrats (AD) Youth League President Thuso Litjobo a platform to air their views.
During the programme, the Litjobo family accused Dr Mosisili of orchestrating Thuso’s arrests and “persecution” by the police, a development which did not go down well with government which then switched off the station.
(PC) FM subsequently obtained an interim High Court order to resume broadcasting on Saturday and government only complied by reconnecting the stations the following afternoon.
World Radio Day is observed globally on 13 February to celebrate radio as a medium to promote and access information.
However, MISA Director Tsebo Matšasa said they were forced into the boycotting the commemoration “because it defies logic seeing that the government doesn’t take the media seriously”.
“Its decision to defy the court order to reconnect People’s Choice FM to LNBS antennas is a clear indication of its intention to suppress freedom of the media and undermine the rule of law in Lesotho,” Mr Matšasa said.
Mr Matšasa said if government felt aggrieved by the Litjobo family’s comments on radio, “they should have followed the procedure in accordance to the Communications Act, or at least they should have gone to the Broadcasting Disputes panel to lodge their complaint, which would not have made a decision overnight because it is a process”.
“We know of programmes on certain radio stations where people are bad-mouthed and the latest incident is where His Majesty was demeaned, but we didn’t see the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) or government taking similar steps, and one gets to wonder what criteria was used in deciding to cut off these radio stations,” he added.
Following MISA’s boycott, UNESCO’s Communications and Information Program Coordinator, Tieho Rankhone said they still hoped to hold the commemoration “later in the month”.
The theme for this year’s celebrations is “Radio is you” and UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova said radio remained important despite the ongoing “revolution in how we share and access information”.
“At a time of turbulence, radio provides an enduring platform to bring communities together. On the way to work, in our homes, offices and fields, in times of peace, conflict and emergencies, radio remains a crucial source of information and knowledge, spanning generations and cultures, inspiring us with the wealth of humanity’s diversity, and connecting us with the world.
“Radio gives voice to women and men everywhere. It listens to audiences and responds to needs. It is a force for human rights and dignity and a powerful enabler of solutions to the challenges all societies face. This is why radio is important to taking forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” Ms Bokova said in her statement to mark World Radio Day.