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Twenty-five IFEX members concerned by efforts to gag journalists

(IFEX) - The following is a joint action signed by twenty-five IFEX members
concerned by efforts to gag journalists in Lesotho:


We, the delegates participating in the International Freedom of Expression
Exchange conference in Cape Town, South African on 20-23 April, are
concerned that Justice Mahapela Lehohla of Lesotho appears to be on a
systematic campaign to deny local journalists their right to report on the
courts of the land.

We are dismayed to learn that on many occasions, Judge Lehohla barred
journalists form reporting in his court, on account of their dress.

It has been brought to our attention that the following journalists were on
various occasions told to vacate the courtroom by Judge Lehohla.

Rabuka Chalatse, Candi Ratabane Ramainoane, Mabuti Shea and Tseleng Mokotso
of MoAfrika newspaper and radio, Mariti Mariti (foreign correspondent),
Thabang Khalieli (Editor, Leselinyana la Lesotho) and Leboela Motopi (Public

We are also advised that as recently as Friday, 16 April, the judge evicted
Ramainoane, Shea, Mokotso, Mariti and Khalieli from his court, shouting:
"this is not a rugby field, get out of my court, or else I will lock you

We were further advised that on the same occasion, a majority of these
reporters were in the Court of Appeal where the judges of the Court of
Appeal did not see anything wrong with their attire.

Moreover, we were told that these journalists are not newcomers to the
courts of Lesotho. They have always reported on the Court of Appeal and
other courts dressed in the same manner - it is only Justice Lehohla who
does not accept them.

When asked as to what is the proper dress for Justice Lehohla's court, his
court orderly said male journalists should wear jackets and ties and that
their female counterparts should wear hats and skirts.

But Miss Tseleng Mokotso was nevertheless kicked out of the same court
despite wearing a skirt and a hat.

We therefore call on Lesotho's Minister of Justice and Human Rights, the
Honourable Sephiri Motanyane, and Chief Justice Lebona Kheola, to impress on
Justice Lehohla that barring reporters from this court is a violation of the
"Freedom of Expression right" which is entrenched in Section Fourteen (14)
of the bill of rights of the kingdom's constitution.

Signed here in Cape Town, South Africa


Alliance of Independent Journalists, AJI, Indonesia
AMARC - World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters
ANEM, Association of Independent Electronic Media, Yugoslavia
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Free Expression Ghana
Free Media Movement, Sri Lanka
Freedom of Expression Institute
Glasnost Defence Foundation, Moscow, Russia
HKJA, Hong Kong Journalists Association
Independent Journalism Centre (IJC), Nigeria
Index on Censorship, London, UK
ISAI, Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information, Indonesia
International Press Institute
IPYS, Instituto Prensa y Sociedad, Peru
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Media Watch, Bangladesh
Network for the Defence of Independent Media in Africa (NDIMA)
Norwegian Forum for Freedom of Expression, Oslo, Norway
Paraguay Union of Journalists (SPP)
PINA, Pacific Islands News Association, Suva, Fiji
Periodistas, Argentinian Association for the Defence of Independent
Reporters' Association of Thailand
WAJA, West African Journalists Association
Writers in Prison Committee, INTERNATIONAL PEN

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