MISA boycotts World Radio Day

MISA boycotts World Radio Day

MASERU – THE Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho boycotted the World Radio Day celebrations on Monday to protest the shutting down of two radio stations last week.

The government shut down the Khubetsoana-based Tšenolo FM and the city centre’s People’s Choice FM.
No reasons were given for the shut-down.

The two stations however broadcast live the Litjobo family press conference where the family attacked the government for allegedly harassing firebrand youth activist, Thuso Litjobo.
The radio stations were only back on air on Sunday night, a few hours before the beginning of World Radio Day celebrations.
Normally MISA Lesotho invites the Communications Minister and senior officials of the ministry to mark the day.

But after the shutting down of the radio stations MISA Lesotho said it was pulling out of the celebrations.

MISA Lesotho said the decision was “taken in solidarity (with) Tšenolo FM and People’s Choice FM which were cut off air on Thursday”.
What further irked MISA Lesotho is that PC FM obtained a High Court order instructing the government to put it back on air but the Ministry of Communications ignored the order.
The High Court order said the ministry should reconnect PC FM to the Lesotho National Broadcasting Services with immediate effect but that was not done.

MISA Lesotho also claims that the ministry had promised it that the radio stations would be back on air on Friday but that did not happen and even after it was slapped with the court order.
“Our firm belief is that the commemoration should be done along a sound demonstration of the day’s aspiration as set out by UNESCO which the government of Lesotho is a party to,” MISA Lesotho national director Tsebo Matšasa said.

“We take the government of Lesotho’s decision to defy the court order to re-connect People’s Choice FM to LNBS antennas as a clear indication of the government’s intention to suppress freedom of the media and undermining of the rule of law in Lesotho.”

Matšasa said the boycott was to remind the government that “this is a democratic country where people have rights and responsibilities”.
“Government is entrusted to ensure the rule of law is obeyed and respected,” he said.

He said reconnecting the radio station two days after the court order “simply means that the government doesn’t respect the law”.
“They are supposed to be custodians of the law and help people respect the law,” Matšasa said.

“MISA is an institution representing the media hence we continued with the boycott even after those radio stations were reconnected at 1pm of the Radio Day. The government is taking MISA for granted yet we are the main stakeholders of the development of the country. For more than 16 years we have advocated for enactment of the media policy.”
He said if the government was aggrieved by those radio stations they could have met with their managers, if the matter was not solved they could have gone to the broadcast media panel or proceed to the Lesotho Communication Authority then to court of law if the matter wasn’t settled.

Tšenolo FM station manager, Mshengu Tshabalala, said they “don’t know the reasons for the closure of the radio station but we think it was closed because those who closed it did not want us to cover what was to happen during the weekend”.

He was referring to the welcoming by opposition parties of three leaders who had been in exile in South Africa for almost two years.
“The fact that there is no media policy in the country denies media and the government the chance to know their boundaries,” Tshabalala said.
“It is very unfair to reconnect and connect the radio without consulting station managers because for a radio to be on air we pay,” he said.
PC FM station manager Khauta Mpeqa, said their radio station was shut down after they broadcast the Litjobo family press conference.
“The government was concerned and unhappy about their statements,” Mpeqa said.

“We sat down with the government to discuss the issue because the government does not regulate the content but the LCA does.” he said.
Communications Minister Serialong Qoo declined to comment on the matter saying the issue is in the hands of the courts.

Senate Sekotlo

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