Fight over TV coverage

Fight over TV coverage

MASERU-COMMUNICATIONS Minister Thesele ’Maseribane and Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Selibe Mochoboroane are at war over the control and access to Lesotho Television.

Mochoboroane accused ’Maseribane of instructing the state broadcaster to stop covering the PAC hearings last week. The LTV only resumed covering the proceedings live yesterday after Mochoboroane aired his complaints on air over Moafrika FM. He later had a public showdown with ’Maseribane on Harvest FM.

Mochoboroane hogged the political limelight in February and March after the LTV began broadcasting PAC hearings in which he instructed the police to arrest civil servants who lied during interviews. He also ordered the arrest of a top official from Teaching Service Department who could not account for funds and allegedly paid ghost employees.

He also ordered the arrest of two local government senior officials who falsely testified to the committee that they had built roads which they had not. The two incidents swiftly turned Mochoboroane, leader of the Movement for Economic Change (MEC), into a political star. Yesterday, Mochoboroane angrily criticised ’Maseribane for allegedly blocking LTV from providing live coverage to the PAC.

“There will be no TV coverage today because Chief Thesele is refusing (to allow LTV to cover proceedings),” Mochoboroane said.

’Maseribane however rejected the charge. He said the failure to cover the proceedings was because of a shortage of equipment that allowed live television coverage.

’Maseribane said the Outside Broadcasting (OB) van is not in good shape, a reason Mochoboroane immediately shot down. “We got information earlier that the minister would take the TV from us,” Mochoboroane said.

“What a coincidence, that the minister says we will not be covered live and now suddenly the OB van malfunctions,” he said. Mochoboroane said the other explanation was that LTV should cover other portfolio committees, not the PAC alone.

“We were in the districts for the whole month and during that time those portfolio committees could have been covered, which did not happen,” Mochoboroane said. ’Maseribane insisted that his ministry has only one old OB van that is no longer fit to cover the proceedings.

’Maseribane rubbished allegations that his ministry was out to sabotage the MEC leader on the grounds that “he is building himself and growing his party through the PAC” with the help of LTV. thepost understands that two LTV top officials, Acting Operations Director Ntsane Molemohi and Acting Head of News Moshoeshoe Molapo held a meeting with the Clerk of Parliament, Advocate Fine Maema KC, where he allegedly instructed them to cease covering the PAC proceedings.

The two later compiled a report to the Lesotho National Broadcasting Service (LNBS) director, Mothepane Kotele, where they gave details of their discussions with Maema. The meeting was held on March 7.

“In the meeting, Advocate Maema said clearly that they were not expecting the portfolio committees to be covered,” the report, which was seen by thepost reads in part. “He said, they were still satisfied with coverage given for the parliament normal sitting of the 120 members,” it reads. The report says Maema was concerned that other portfolio committees were being delayed because of the continued use of the main chamber of parliament where the LTV is enabled to cover it live.

The report said Maema expressed concern that the situation was now creating an “unpleasant atmosphere”.

“On top of all these, the Clerk of the National Assembly presented to our meeting that TV coverage of portfolio committees cost parliament administration in both manpower and financially,” the report reads. Molemohi and Molapo said they suggested that Maema should tell the nation all these things in a television interview “but he felt it was not a wise step from their side since really they were not expecting us to cover portfolio committees”.

Maema told thepost yesterday that the report distorted what he discussed with Molemohi and Molapo. He provided a memo he wrote to the LNBS director which says Molemohi and Molapo’s report “totally distorts and mixes issues that were discussed at this meeting”.

“You will recall that it was at the request of the director general to meet me on the issue of challenges resulting from LTV coverage of portfolio committees and not on the issue of public accounts committee as it is alleged on the title of the report and contents therein,” the memo reads.

“The issue we had raised with your good office and subsequently the office of the director general was the possibility of covering parallel portfolio committee meetings and the way forward.”

Maema said their discussion made it clear “that there were challenges in that LNBS does not have the resources to capture all portfolio committee proceedings”. He also said he did not have the powers to decide who should be given live coverage.

“It is the Right Honorable the Speaker and chairperson of portfolio committee who decide on coverage by the media,” he said.

“That report is unfortunate and is a serious affront to the office of the clerk.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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