Editor moved to Bloemfontein

Editor moved to Bloemfontein

Staff Reporter

MASERU

THE editor of Lesotho Times newspaper, Lloyd Mutungamiri, who was shot in an ambush at his Thamae home last Saturday has been moved to a Bloemfontein hospital.

Mutungamiri was attacked by unknown gunmen as he entered his driveway from work around midnight on Saturday. He sustained serious facial injuries and was due for surgery yesterday.

He had been at Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital until he was moved on Tuesday.

His wife, Tsitsi Matope, said she heard gunshots and, on checking, she found Mutangamiri slumped on his car door.

“When we heard the gunshots, we were startled. We came out with neighbours and rushed my husband to a private hospital (Maseru Private) and he was then referred to a bigger hospital (Queen Mamohato Memorial),” said Matope.

“They opened fire on him soon after he entered the driveway. When they shot him, he lost control of his car and rammed into parked cars”.

Police are investigating the case.

Two weeks ago Mutungamiri and reporter, Keiso Mohloboli, were interrogated by the police after the Lesotho Times published a story alleging the government had offered a M40 million exit package to army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.

The government says that story was incorrect.

Last week the publisher of the newspaper, Basildon Peta, was charged with criminal defamation after the Lesotho Times published a satirical column lampooning the government and General Kamoli.

Because of the two incidents Mutungamiri’s wife has pointed fingers at the army.

Army spokesperson Ntlele Ntoi yesterday described those allegations as unfounded and unfortunate.

“It came to me as a shock that in two online newspapers I found that the wife blames the army. I could not find any evidence she is putting forward to support her allegations,” Ntoi said.

“It has come that we as the army are not surprised because there is a campaign of soiling the good name of the army. Anything bad that happens is blamed on the military.”

“It is unfortunate that every time there is something sinister people start speculating and blaming the army and in the end they influence the outcome of the investigation. This is unfortunate.”

Communications Minister Khotso Letsatsi told a press conference on Monday that the “government as a whole condemned the shooting of Mutungamiri”.

Letsatsi said the government did not have any interest in harming Mutungamiri “especially because we have taken legal processes against him”.

“We cannot take legal action against the man and then turn around to physically harm him,” Letsatsi said. “I want to assure that the government did not have any interest to do that. We are shocked by this attack and we feel for his family and colleagues”.

Local and international groups have condemned the shooting.

“The deplorable attack on the life of the Lesotho Times editor, Lloyd Mutungamiri, is also an attack on the right to freedom of expression. Authorities must leave no stone unturned in getting to the bottom of this act and bring all those suspected of criminal responsibility to justice,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

“His shooting is particularly disturbing because it comes amidst increased harassment and intimidation against the newspaper for its investigative journalism work.”

A joint statement by civil society said “the Lesotho authorities must ensure that a prompt, thorough and independent investigation is carried out and that effective measures are taken to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice”.

“These incidents – and particularly the attack on Mr Mutungamiri – constitute serious infringements of the right to freedom of expression in Lesotho. No journalist should operate in fear during the course of their work.”

“We urge the Lesotho authorities to implement effective measures to both protect the safety of journalists and to ensure that there is no impunity for attacks against them. The authorities must send a clear message that such acts are not tolerated.”

Misa-Lesotho said it “condemns the attack against Mutungamiri, which it regards as a grave threat to media freedom and freedom of expression in Lesotho.”

Meanwhile, over 30 non-managerial employees of the Lesotho Times and Sunday Express have written Letsatsi seeking his assurance about their safety.

The employees also raised concerns that the papers are at the brink of a forceful closure and their jobs are at stake.

“We strongly feel that our working environment has been compromised, with local staff members feeling that their jobs are on the line,” the letter reads in part.

“We feel that this anticipated reality might mean a possible closure of the two publications, leaving the 31 permanent employees jobless,” it reads.

The workers appealed to the government to “pronounce itself on steps that would be taken to save these jobs and ensure that hundreds of families continue to benefit from this venture”.

“We further appeal to our astound (sic) government to pronounce itself concerning the censorship and fear that’s now reigning within the Lesotho Times and Sunday Express working station,” the letter reads.

The employees also told Letsatsi that prior to the shooting of Mutungamiri, “we received tip-offs that our lives as individuals are under threat and we are now in a panicking mode,” the letter reads.

The workers also asked Letsatsi to ensure their their personal security.

“We feel highly compromised, intimidated and are appealing for your intervention.”

The letter has been copied to Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and the United Nations.

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