More anguish for MoAfrika

More anguish for MoAfrika

MASERU – MoAfrika FM is in hot water again. This time the Broadcasting Disputes Resolution and Prevention (BDRP) has slapped the radio station with a M40 000 fine for violating the code of conduct. This was after the Ministry of Communications complained to the panel about the radio station’s handling of a programme in which contentious allegations were made against Communications Minister Thesele ’Maseribane.

The ministry protested that MoAfrika had made “irresponsible” statements to incite violence and defame Maseribane.
The statements were made during a phone-in programme which the BDRP said the radio station’s presenter failed to control.
In its defence, the radio station argued that it had a right to freedom of expression and has an obligation to extend the same to its listeners during programmes.
The BDRP however ruled that the right to freedom of expression is neither absolute nor unconditional. The freedom, the panel ruled, should be enjoyed without “prejudicing the rights of other persons”.

It ruled that when a controversial issue of public importance is discussed, a broadcaster must make reasonable efforts to present opposition views in the same or subsequent programme fairly.
A person whose views are to be criticized on a controversial issue of public importance must be given the right to reply in the same programme, it said.
The panel said anything that involves the King, Prime Minister and Ministers “ought to be reported in the media more strictly according to the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) Broadcast rules 2004 in particular Part III ‘code of conduct’ as a matter of proper ethics.”

It found that in this case “MoAfrika FM falls far short of satisfying the said code in that opposing views were not canvassed (and) as such the debate was not balanced”.
The BDRP said the station did not warn callers that the debate involved a controversial matter of interest that should be discussed in a balanced way.
The judgement delivered on Monday ordered MoAfrika to warn presenters who participated in the programme and broadcast the ruling twice a week for 14 days.
The station however does not have to pay the M40 000 unless it violates the code of conduct again. The judgement also has a silver lining for the station.

During the hearing, Managing Editor, Ratabane Ramainoane complained that the Ministry of Communications has curtailed the radio station’s reach in other parts of the country. The BDRP ordered the LCA to investigate the allegations.
“Such investigation report is to be made available to BDRP for onward transmission to MoAfrika FM within 14 working days,” the BDRP said.
Ramainoane said he was not satisfied with the judgement.

“So it is clear they want to shut it,” Ramainoane said.
MoAfrika FM has had a rocky relationship with the government.
The Lesotho National Broadcasting Services (LNBS) shut down the station in August 2017 for six days saying it had not paid government fees amounting to M100 000.00, allegations that MoAfrika disputed.

In September 2017, the station was shut down for 72 hours as the government alleged incitement to violence, while Ramainoane was briefly arrested as police accused him of criminal defamation.
The criminal defamation case has fallen apart since the government repealed the law earlier this year.
In April this year, the station applied for the High Court to set aside a M40 000 fine imposed by the BDRP in a separate case in which MoAfrika is accused of contravening broadcasting codes through a historical drama series.

Nkheli Liphoto

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