Two independent radio stations critical of the Lesotho government were
taken off air when state officials cut the electricity supply to their
transmitters, writes Mzimkhulu Sithetho.

The action against Harvest FM and People’s Choice FM occurred at the Lancers’ Gap transmitter station, where most of the country’s radio stations are hooked up on contractual co-hosting arrangements.

The regulatory body, the Lesotho Broadcasting Authority, has distanced itself from these actions, but wondered why the radio stations did not immediately inform it about going off air.
According to the LTA’s spokesperson, Tsiu Tsiu, broadcasting houses have to inform the regulator five minutes after losing transmission.

People’s Choice FM went off air in December 2007, exactly at the time that opposition parties were planning a nationwide stay-at-home protest.

A week ago, Harvest FM was taken off air, on the same day the station broadcast live the procession that accompanied the remains of the late Semuli Semuli, member of the opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) to his home from the funeral parlour.

A veteran journalist who is a member of the MISA Lesotho governing council, Thabo Motlamelle, has criticised government for its actions against the independent media

"A vibrant, provocative and fiercely independent broadcast media is a species under immense siege and if the Lesotho government is to have its way, it should be listed among the extinct.                                

“The Government of Lesotho, through its Ministry of Communications has instituted such draconian measures to not only silence but to strangulate to death the alternative voice in the country. Such measures have included the vandalism by state officials on radio stations,” he says.                                       

Both stations are back on air.