Lesotho’s Harvest FM will be off air for three months after its licence was suspended by the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) following complaints lodged by the Police Commissioner and Communications Principal Secretary last year, writes Mzimkhulu Sithetho.

The station’s suspension will be for 12 months, but nine are suspended on condition it does not violate its license provisions.  From October, when it resumes broadcasting, the regulator will closely monitor the station’s content.

The order follows a complaint lodged by Police Commissioner Malejaka Letooane, who said a report that police had killed a suspect in their custody in November 2007 was inaccurate, malicious and defamatory.

Another complaint came from the permanent secretary of the department of communications, Tseliso Mokela, who complained that the station’s popular phone-in talk show, Rise and Shine, was provocative and that people used vulgar language and harassed the people.

The station’s lawyer, advocate Haae Phoofolo, had written an apology to the LTA board,  admitting that the radio presenters’ words could have been unnecessarily strong and expressed regret over the incident.

However, he argued in the letter that there had been no malicious intent in the report on the police death. He pointed out that the police spokesperson had indicated that the police killed the suspect.

But the apology was not enough to prevent the suspension.

The station has come under state pressure since the February 2007 elections as it was perceived to be supporting the new opposition party, the All Basotho Convention (ABC).

Station manager, Reverend Adam Lekhoaba has been deported, and is currently outside the country while his challenge in the high court continues.