Lesotho journalist charged with treason

A regional chairperson of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa), Thabo Thakalekola, was on Monday night released from jail in Maseru on R1 000 bail, following his arrest last Friday by the Lesotho mounted police on charges of treason.

Thakalekola, who is a freelance journalist and radio presenter, was arrested on Friday following his Harvest FM morning radio show Rise and Shine, where he read out a letter live on air that called on the commissioner of police to arrest Lesotho’s prime minister and other senior officials for engaging in corrupt activities.

Thakalekola was given the letter by members of the Lesotho Defence Force who are unsatisfied with the current government, Misa-Lesotho spokesperson Thabang Matjama said on Tuesday.

Matjama said the letter was taken as the most recent in a string of conflicts between the government and some members of the defence force, with the homes of some ministers even being attacked earlier this month.

He said the government was most probably associating Thakalekola’s reading of the letter with those attacks on government officials. “But the intention [of reading the letter] was to alert those in government so that they would notice what is happening.”

Thakalekola was taken into custody and pushed to reveal the identities of those who had given him the letter. Although the letter was signed, Thakalekola did not read out any names on air and he refuses to make the names known.
“Because I am not obliged to reveal my sources as a journalist,” he told representatives of Misa when they met him on Friday.

On Tuesday, Misa-Zimbabwe applauded Thakalekola “for refusing to be intimidated and sticking to the cardinal rules of the profession by declining to disclose the sources of the contents of the letter”.

“His professionalism should serve to inspire journalists throughout the Southern African region who operate in similarly repressive environments on the need to respect and adhere to the ethics of the profession,” Misa-Zimbabwe said in a statement.

Matjama said Misa-Lesotho was “happy about his release because we can’t understand how a journalist can be accused of treason”. He said treason is undertaken by many people and is political in nature, and it makes no sense for a media practitioner to be charged with it.

Thakalekola has been charged with subversion under section nine of Lesotho’s Internal Security Act of 1984. A court date has not been set, but under his bail conditions he is, among other requirements, not allowed to make public statements or leave the country without police consent.