The Ministry of Communications has mooted an amendment to the Lesotho
Communications Authority (LCA) Act in the National Assembly that seeks
to limit the freedom enjoyed by broadcasting media, writes Mzimkhulu
The new amendment seeks to give theÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â Communications Minister the power to revoke a license and close communication services if he believes that the services may prejudice or endanger public interest. This can be done without a hearing.
The bill also seeks to empower the minister to deny access to any information requested by a journalist for publication purposes, if he feels it is necessary to protect national security.
This comes against the background that media groups have been calling for the Receipt and Access of Information Bill to be passed.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â This bill has been stalled for more than five years.
Before 2004, the Lesotho Communications Authority, then known as the Lesotho Telecommunications Authority, had full power to grant and revoke licenses and to allocate frequency spectrums to broadcasting houses without the interference of the minister.
This changed in 2005, when the then minister, Thomas Thabane ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ who has since become a opposition leader ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ took over significant powers.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â This bill extends these powers.
The new bill also increases the fine for persons who flout broadcasting regulations from M2 000 (R2 000) to M6Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000 (R6 000) or imprisonment of no less than six months or both.
Observers believe the bill is aimed at dealing with Harvest FM which has since received many letters from the regulator threatening to revoke its license and close it.
Last Friday, the station management received one among a series of letters from the regulator demanding that it give reasons within 60 days why the station could not be closed.
The new bill is yet to be presented to the Portfolio Committee on Communications.