The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the threatening actions of the Maseru police in Lesotho in recent weeks against the independent newspaper and radio station Moafrika.
Although Moafrika had begun to pay a fine (of about 20,000 Euros) from a libel suit (taken up in the year 2000) in installments, three Lesotho high court sheriffs went to the offices of the radio on 16 June with an execution writ, threatening to seize all the movable equipment of the radio station and newspaper and the editor's personal property, if the fine was not paid in full on the spot.
These sheriffs returned on 25 June putting seals on the radio station's computers and broadcasting equipment, and warning station director Candi Ratabane Ramainone that they would return the following day to collect everything.
“Given the reduced financial capacities of any Lesotho news media, such coercive measures taken by the Lesotho judicial system are completely unjustified and amount to intimidation,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.
Furthermore, Mr. Ratabane Ramainone says he received an “invitation” to the offices of the Chief of the Maseru police, Senior Superintendent Keketso Kholokholo, without any particular reason, only to stipulate that he should report himself without fail.
Due to Moafrika’s strongly critical approach to some actions by the Lesotho government, the IFJ is concerned about the possibility that the judicial system is exercising undue pressure that amounts to an infringement of press freedom.
Currently Mr. Ratabane Ramainone’s lawyer fears that the police could detain him until Monday (7 July), so as to remove him from the station. There are serious fears for his safety. As a result, the IFJ is calling on the Lesotho authorities to respect press freedom and to curb the unjustified actions of the police.
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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries