Lesotho





Basic Data

Lesotho

Official Country Name: Kingdom of Lesotho
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 2,143,141
Language(s): Sesotho, English, Zulu, Xhosa
Literacy rate: 71.3%

Background & General Characteristics

Lesotho is landlocked and completely encircled by South Africa, with approximately 2.14 million people of which 99.7 percent speak Sesotho, with English used as the business language. The kingdom is a fragile democracy—a hereditary constitutional monarchy having a king as head of state without executive or legislative powers. Executive power is vested in the cabinet headed by a prime minister. Predominantly mountainous with a literacy rate of 83 percent, the kingdom's population is concentrated wherever arable land is found, primarily in the lower veld, along rivers and the capital of Maseru.

The press's growth and size are inhibited by Lesotho's weakened infrastructure, dependence on South Africa (35 percent of male wage-earners work as miners), and a mostly rural population (agriculture caters for 57 percent of the domestic labor force, with 86 percent of the population as subsistence farmers) with a low per-capita income—factors relegating the purchase of newspapers, radios, television and the Internet as unaffordable luxuries. The HIV/AIDS prevalence of 23 percent threatens life expectancy, population size and socioeconomic productivity, including media patronage.

Since attaining its independence from Britain in 1966, Lesotho has undergone more than one coup, and has been engulfed in several political mayhems resulting in killings, looting and property destruction involving the press, which is caught in a quagmire adversely affecting its quality and existence.

Lesotho's economic and press sustainability is dominated by its geography and dependence on South Africa, the main buyer of water, Lesotho's primary resource. The economy is based on a declining Gross Domestic Product that in 1990 was 67 percent; in 1997, 33 percent; and in 2000, 11.5 percent, as well as from mineworkers employed in South Africa, erratic subsistence agriculture (wheat, corn and sorghum) and livestock production. Growing privatization emanating from the IMF-driven restructuring has led to the need for a poverty reduction and growth package to deal with escalating unemployment precipitated by subsequent retrenchments intended to reduce the size of the government, the largest single employer. There is a small manufacturing industry that depends on farm products supporting canning, milling, leather and jute initiatives.

Civil disorder in 1998 destroyed 80 percent of the commercial infrastructure in major cities, many of them lacking in insurance coverage. Political turmoil has adversely affected the media, especially the independent press, which lost buildings, equipment, the ability to cover events, personnel through retrenchment, sales and advertising. This was compounded by government directives discouraging advertising in papers considered critical of the ruling party. The resulting shoestring budget impedes the press' long-term development. Even with reconstruction efforts underway, progress in advertising and circulation are limited by the drop in readership due to lost jobs and an increase in the cost of printing and premiums. Economic development is impeded by a lack of natural resources, serious land shortages, a fragile ecology, and vulnerability to cyclic adverse climatic conditions, leaving the country a net importer of foodstuffs.

Although there are various small publications, periodicals and newsletters, most of Lesotho's media are sate-owned. The Lesotho News Agency (LENA), the only news agency, controls a widely disseminated newspaper. The Inter Press Service (IPS) of Italy operates under the auspices of LENA, a foreign bureau and a national radio broadcasting station. Prohibitive printing costs, poor technology and unavailability of newsprint make it difficult for Lesotho's small publications. Generally, low investment in this sector has adversely impacted the growth of the printing and publishing industry. Most of the country's printing jobs, including major works from the government, are being done outside the country. Government operated weekly papers are Lenstoe la Basotho, Lesotho Today, Lesotho Weekly, Makatolle, The Mirror, MoAfrica, Public Eye, Mopheme (The Survivor), The Sun, The Southern Star and Shoeshoe (a quarterly). The Leselinyana la Lesotho (Light of Lesotho) is published fortnightly, and Moeletsi oa Basotho, a weekly, are published by Lesotho Evangelical and Roman Catholic churches, respectively.

The Lesotho National Broadcasting Service is government-owned and broadcasts in Sesotho and English. Its radio and television transmissions began in 1964 and 1988, respectively.

The are six publishers: Longman Lesotho (Pty) Ltd; Macmillan Boleswa Publishers of Lesotho (Pty) Ltd; Mazenod Institute; Morija sesuto Book Depot; St Michael's Mission and Government Printer.

Press Law

The government, which controls mass media, has paid lip service to the adoption of a national media policy for many years. Despite its suspension from 1970-1986 and being rewritten in 1990, there has been very little change in the key elements of the constitution. While freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association are proclaimed, Lesotho's successions of governments have failed to articulate and adopt a national media policy, with one proposal shelved by the Ministry of Communication for years. Changes of governments also meant that new governments ignore or reverse promises made by their predecessors.

Government's control of media's purpose is not only to ensure timely dissemination of government policy, but also censorship. Government and independent journalists have been attacked for reporting certain matters or for being in the wrong place. Government and security forces have successively suppressed free press, and shot, maimed, defamed and fired journalists for reporting anything other than official statements from the government. The media has not been cowed into silence and continues to publish amidst many obstacles and is enjoying some degree of press freedom. But overall, there is a great deal of self-censorship and restraint by government-owned media.

State-Press Relations

State-press relations are defined by draconian internal security legislation giving considerable power to the military and police, and restricting the right of assembly including certain forms of industrial activity. Independent press and its staff suffered the worst atrocities in September 1998 due to looting and burning of buildings compounded by security forces' arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions and ill-treatment of detainees. The persisting political climate has proven harsh, where journalists are often faced with intimidation from the government, and attacks and accusations for supporting the government's opposing political parties.

Attitude Toward Foreign Media

The attitude toward foreign media is a mixed bag with media associations having international links operating in Lesotho. They are: The National Union of Journalists and the Media Institute of South Africa (MISA, the local chapter being called Media Institute of Lesotho-MILES), News Share Foundation (a journalist cooperative), the Commonwealth Journalists Association, and the Adopt-A-Media Network.

Electronic News Media

Regarding electronic News Media, Lesotho lacks resources to develop a film industry, but the Lesotho Council of Churches owns a mobile video outfit that produces videos for the international and local market. MILES also is funding the development of the Lesotho video industry, and it operates a video production unit for assisting members with technical support and training skills. Lesotho is rapidly becoming computerized with the government controlling most facets of information technology.

In 2000, government-run Lesotho Telecommunications Authority (LTC) was providing telephones and fax service in a joint venture with South Africa's Vodacom. The project will include a cellular telephone service, with the government relinquishing ownership in June 2001. The Internet has made slow inroads reflecting low incomes and a small potential market. Before localizing the service, Lesotho's Office Equipment's Internet connectivity was through service providers in South Africa. The University of Lesotho's Institute of Extra-Mural Studies owns its own Internet service and runs an Internet café for students and the public. South Africa's electronic and print media of varying reliability and quality is widely available in Lesotho. Independent newspapers, including the Mirror, MoAfrica, and Mopheme (The Survivor), tend to be critical of the government and can be found on the Internet.

Education & TRAINING

Christian missions under the Ministry of Education's direction provides a free, compulsory, seven-year elementary education. Provisions for secondary, technical, vocational and post secondary education have increased. Lesotho's background in media training is poor with the National University of Lesotho offering a diploma certificate in mass communications with most of the training done in-house or as short courses organized by groups such as MILES and CM Media.

Summary

Considering a history of government suppression, shootings and maiming of journalists, the media has not been silenced and continues to publish and enjoy some degree of freedom. However, there exists a persistent threat of an armed conflict with a Lesotho Defense Force historically involved in domestic politics, and factional infighting in addition to the government feverishly suppressing a free press. Opposition in parliament may strengthen democracy's weak roots in Lesotho by promoting a favorable press environment. MILES' steadfast advocacy for constitutional reforms and a self-regulating media-driven body in opposition to government's media-control legislation holds further promise for an improved free press.

Bibliography

"Foreign Journalists Expelled, Harassed." Africa News Service. November 16, 2000.

Gamble, Paul. "Lesotho." In Economist Intelligence Unit Country Profile: Botswana and Lesoto (May 2002): 51-95.

Gay, J., D. Gill, and D. Hall, eds. Lesotho's Long Journey: Hard choices at the Crossroads." Maseru, Lesotho: Sechaba Consustants, 1995.

IMF. Lesotho Statistical Annex, June 2001.

Windhoek, Namibia. "Editor Loses Defamation Case." In Lesotho Alert. Media Institute of Southern Africa, October 23, 2000. Available from http://www.misanet.org/ . ——. "Minister Threatens to Fire Journalists." In Lesotho Alert. October 12, 1998. Available from http://www.misanet.org/ .

——. "Speaker Lifts Ban Against Media." In Lesotho Alert. September 16, 1997. Available from http://www.misanet.org/ .

——. "Speaker of Parliament Shuns Discussion on Ban." In Lesotho Alert. September 16, 1997. Available from http://www.misanet.org/ .

"World Development Indicators." World Bank. Washington, DC, 2002.

Saliwe M. Kawewe , Ph.D.



Also read article about Lesotho from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

THABANG
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Feb 6, 2007 @ 7:07 am
LESOTHO background in media trainning has even become poorer as the media practitioniers at Institude of extra murual studies under the national university of lestho are not given enough practicals.We are taught to speak under the microphone but not to operate a radio station,we are taught to write news but not to practise this art of writting daily, as there is no school newspaper or any attachment whatsoever.there is a television station and video cameras which we were only introduced to,not to have hands on.THE STATE THROUGH THE National Manpower Dvelopment secritatariat has decided to dump media studies claiming their uselessness in the development of the country. Lesotho does not take MASS MEDIA SERIOUSLY.
Ntamane
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May 13, 2009 @ 11:11 am
I appreciate that Lesotho may have been poor due to scarcity of resources. However, I must admit that no effort has been made to ensure that those resources that could be developed were developed. For this reason, I strongly believe that if people; especially young people are allowed opportunities to do a practical research, then development in media would take a step ahead. This could be achieved by encouraging the local radios, developing institution press such as DOPE fm in NUL and varsity breeze, as well as providing loans to young people who wish to establish videographic enterprise. Therefore, to me, there is still hope for this country. Khotso. Pula. Nala.
Batsoeneng
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Aug 28, 2009 @ 7:07 am
I strongly agree with this article, especially with regard to allow free press. As an academic I believe that the media is the fourth branch of power whereby it tend to act as a watchdog to the activities of the state. Without a freedom of speech then Lesotho will definately be amongst the failed state.
Tsiame
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Dec 6, 2010 @ 8:08 am
Great article. It could do with some fine tuning here and there (especially updates). I didn't get the statistical background of media consumption in Lesotho as I did when I viewed other Souther African States like Malawi on this same page. Listener ship of radio stations, circulation volumes of newspapers and son on.
as a media practitioner myself, I understand the outcry of young people in the country who are aspiring to get into the industry. It's a very closed industry everywhere you go, and as some of you have written about how frustrating the institutions of higher learning are conducting themselves, I think the bigger problem lies in the government. It does not seem like it cares about quality output in this field, or even doesn't take media studies as a priority through the student funding (NMDS).
I think the breakthrough in the democratic conduct will slowly be realized because a number of private radio stations have already expanded their coverages to parts of the country where only State Radio could previously reach, and once the playing fields are level, then the free press effort will have a major boost. The country already has 8 private radio stations (ten if you include the two state owned stations) which I believe is good.
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Jun 17, 2011 @ 1:13 pm
The article is really very informative. It gives a clear insight into the history of Lesotho and the present status.
mpiti sekake
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Apr 23, 2012 @ 9:09 am
may you pleasen add news related to when did media begin, where, who started it and the like
thobela
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May 5, 2012 @ 5:05 am
THIS IS TRUE, THAKALEKOALA WAS ACCUSED AND HE WON THE CASE, MOYEYE IS ALWAYS INSULTED BY OTHER PEOPLE WITH POWER. SO THERE IS NO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION OR FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN LESOTHO. ONCE YOU SAY SOMETHING BAD WHIC IS DONE BY THE GOVERNMENT, YOU ARE IN DANGER.
Tseko
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Jul 21, 2012 @ 7:19 pm
Media in lesotho is exceptionally poor! On average only two radio out of 12 radio stations broadcast nationally mind you,the other is a government owned
mpiti sekake
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Aug 30, 2013 @ 5:05 am
THE MEDIA IN LESOTHO SEEMS TO BE FOCUSING ON BAD THINGS, PARTICULARLY THOSE THAT ARE DONE BY GOVERNMENT, SERIOUS ISSUES LIKE HIV/AIDS AND OTHERS ARE NOT COVERED ANYMORE. IN THE FIELD OF JOURNALISM, ITS NO SECRETE THAT "CONTROVERSY SELLS" BUT REALLY, THE MEDIA PRACTITIONERS, REPORTERS TO BE SPECIFIC, PRACTICE A LOT OF WHAT IS KNOWN AS "YELLOW JOURNALISM"
Tsepo
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Jun 6, 2014 @ 8:08 am
where or how do i acquire a Quatation regarding rates for advertising on TV lesotho.
eloise van tonder
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Jul 20, 2014 @ 10:10 am
im looking for names of your local newspapers and there websites we a family of 6 want to move to Lesotho I want to look in your newspapers for jobs for a mechanic and a panelbeater by trade abel to do both also if anyone knows about any company or jobs plz email me at eloisevantonder@yahoo.com thank you
tebello
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Aug 27, 2014 @ 9:09 am
the reason of why Lesotho is so poor regarding the media is that, media in Lesotho are politically influenced, besides they just use this thing of yellow journalism. for instance, Lesotho TV when looking for the presenters it called such a thing a talent search,and everybody went to that interview. however there were thousands of people who did broadcasting and journalism but were denied their professional position they learnt at tertiaries. what Is this?
Amelia
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Sep 15, 2016 @ 9:09 am
Lesotho and Press; how do Lesotho newspapers attract us "the youth" as their market?
NTHABELENG
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Mar 12, 2017 @ 5:17 pm
THIS INFO IS VERY HELPFUL TO US LEARNERS,,, I HOPE IT WILL INFLUENCE PEOPLE TO BE PART OF MEDIA DEVELOPMENT IN LESOTHO

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