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Broadcast journalist inundated with threats over his reporting on political developments

(MISA/IFEX) - The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) correspondent in Lesotho, Thabo Thakalekoala, who is also the regional chairperson of MISA, has been inundated with threatening anonymous calls that complain about his reporting, ever since the former minister of communications, Tom Thabane, defected from the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) to form the All Basotho Convention (ABC) on 9 October 2006.

Thakalekoala told MISA-Lesotho that he has been receiving calls on his mobile phone from anonymous individuals who call from public telephone booths, threatening to kidnap him and his children, and telling him to leave the country and go to South Africa to practice his "biased journalism" because that is where he "rightly belongs." Thakalekoala says he suspects the calls to be from disgruntled LCD supporters.

Thakalekoala has been reporting on developments in Lesotho's political arena to various international media organisations that include the South African Press Association (SAPA), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Sources within the Ministry of Communications have also revealed that Thakalekoala and MISA-Lesotho have been banned and will be denied admittance to state-run media activities.

Some LCD members have also alleged that Thakalekoala is related to the ABC leader, which leads to bias in his reporting. Thakalekoala has since reported the matter to the National Security Service (NSS). MISA-Lesotho is monitoring the situation.

BACKGROUND:
Thousands of people attended the launch of a new political party - the All Basotho Convention (ABC) - in the kingdom of Lesotho on 9 October, where its leader pledged to spearhead a war on poverty.

Thabane has already managed to persuade 17 former lawmakers from the ruling LCD to join him, making his new faction the third largest party in parliament. More defections are expected.

The 61-year-old Pakalitha Mosisili, who has been prime minister since 1998, had been expected to stand down before the next general election but he later decided to stand for re-election as LCD chief, winning comfortably in January.

The general election is expected to take place in around six months' time in Lesotho, a country surrounded by South Africa, although no date has yet been set.

MISA condemns the reported attempts by members of the public to intimidate a media professional who, by virtue of his profession, is required to report accurately and truthfully on all aspects of life in the Kingdom of Lesotho.

At the same time, MISA appeals to Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili to make every attempt to instill a culture of tolerance for diverse political views and affiliation among the peoples of the Kingdom and, further still, to promote an environment which is conducive to media freedom and freedom of expression.

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