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Harvest FM radio station back on air

(MISA/IFEX) - On 22 October 2008, Harvest FM hit the airwaves again after three months of suspension by the broadcasting regulator. Station manager Malichaba Lekhoaba appeared on the morning "Rise and Shine programme" to give a background on the recent run-in the radio station had with the broadcasting regulator.

Harvest FM's broadcasting license was suspended by the Lesotho Telecommunications Authority (LCA) on the grounds that the station failed to comply with broadcasting rules. The LCA had suspended the station for twelve months, nine of which were set aside on condition that the station does not commit a similar offence within that period.

Many listeners expressed relief in having the station back on air. The station has been the most critical of the government of Lesotho, which resulted in government accusations that the station was aligned with opposition political parties.

MISA-Lesotho intervened in the closure of the station, arguing for the ban to be lifted. The LCA, however, contended that the matter was already in the hands of the courts. Harvest FM lodged a case demanding annulment of the suspension. Noting that the legal case could have delayed the reopening of the station even further, MISA-Lesotho advised the station to withdraw the case, accept and see through the three-month suspension which ended on 21 October 2008.

Meanwhile, the board composition of the LCA has come under the spotlight with allegations of conflict of interest. The former acting minister and the current secretary general of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy, Mpho Malie, who was an overseer in the recruitment process of the board, now sits on the same regulatory board. Also sitting as a board member is the wife of the Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Communications, Teboho 'Mokela. The PS was highly involved in the recruitment of the LCA board members. Other members of the board include the ruling party's legal representative and a relation of 'Mokela, Salemane Phafane, a brother of Ministry of Labour principal secretary Paseka Khetsi and a sister of Deputy Prime Minister Refiloe Lehohla. MISA-Lesotho has raised concern that this board is not representative of the diverse interest groups in Lesotho but made up of people all linked in one way or the other. The LCA is thus not reflecting the diversity of Lesotho and cannot in its present form manage the affairs of broadcasting and telecommunications fairly.

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