By Lekhetho Makhanya Ntsukunyane

Cognizant of, the fact that the advent of ICT and the social media platforms has played a catalytic role in amplifying the voices of the previously marginalised members of society who were not able to access content of the mainstream media,

Aware of, Lesotho Communications Authority’s intention to promulgate Internet
Broadcasting Rules 2020, with the objective of regulating internet broadcasting and content distributed over the internet,

Aware that, Lesotho Communications Authority’s action is enshrined in the
Communications Act No.04 of 2012,

Informed about, the intent of the aforementioned rules being to make provision for regulation of internet broadcasting and content distributed over the internet,

Cognizant that, the mentioned rules will empower LCA to request persons who conduct internet broadcasting, as defined by the proposed internet broadcasting rules, to register with the Authority,

Mindful that, such persons will be obliged to comply with broadcasting principles and standards, under the Lesotho Telecommunications Authority (Broadcasting) rules of 2004,

Aware that, with the envisaged broadcasting rules in place, LCA will be vested with
authority to investigate internet broadcasts that are suspected of contravening the LTA (Broadcasting) Rules and that may result in removal of such posts and content,

And now, MISA-Lesotho presents this position paper on the aforementioned intent of LCA:

1) MISA-Lesotho is a media non-governmental policy advocacy organization that has for the past 25 years, advocated for a conducive policy and legislative environment for media proprietors, media editors and media practitioners to operate in. It has lobbied for formulation of media and communication policies that advance the cause for freedom of expression of opinion and freedom of the media.

2) MISA-Lesotho advocates for respect for the rights and freedoms of all citizens of the country and people by the elected authorities in their actions as they execute the
mandates conferred on them by the people as regards their freedom to expression
and their views without any frontiers. This is in line with the prescription of this
freedom by the Constitution of Lesotho and other international instruments to which Lesotho subscribes.

3) MISA-Lesotho also observes the innate powers and authority granted by law on
regulatory and oversight institutions, in particular the LCA, which is granting of
licenses to communications service providers; promoting and preserving fair
competition in the communications market; approving tariffs, managing the radio
frequency spectrum; empowering and protecting consumers; type-approving
terminal equipment and other related responsibilities.

4) MISA-Lesotho firmly holds the view that any promulgation of rules, formulation of policies and enactment of laws geared towards addressing some of the maladies,
malfeasance as well as deviation of the set norms has to be done in the spirit of
bringing a state of normalcy and balancing the forces between enjoyments of rights
and freedoms by consumers.

5) MISA-Lesotho does not hold the view of absolutism, where there is no respective
responsibility attached to the freedoms and rights – advancing the cause of ‘where a
right of one ends, is the beginning of the right and freedom of another’.

6) MISA-Lesotho is also cognisant of the reality that the platforms are created for
granting citizens an opportunity to express their views and participate in the national
development agenda.

7) Therefore, MISA-Lesotho categorically repudiates, in the strongest possible terms
this promulgation, because it infringes on the right to freedom of expression of
opinion and freedom of the media.

8) MISA-Lesotho is aware of an attempt to enact the Cyber Security legislation whose intent is to protect users of communication platforms including social media, against hacking and other cybercrimes that may be prevalent on the internet.

9) MISA Lesotho wishes to draw attention of the LCA to the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms Initiative by Pan-Africa countries to promote human rights standards and principles of openness in internet policy formulation on the continent.

10) The African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms is implemented by more than 50 African countries, including Lesotho, and subscribes, inter alia, to the
following key principles; openness, internet access and affordability, freedom of
expression, right to information, freedom of assembly and association and the
internet, cultural and linguistic diversity, right to development and access to
knowledge, privacy and personal data protection as well as democratic multi-stakeholder internet governance.

11) It is firmly an upheld view of MISA Lesotho that LCA awaits promulgation of the Cyber Security law, which will provide legal parameters for producers and users of internet based content in line with universally accepted ethics, norms and values, then, a policy providing guidelines on how to deal with cybercrimes can be formulated.

12) It is our fervent belief as MISA-Lesotho that the internet broadcasting rules will draw their strength from the Act, which would have drawn its strength from the policy.

13) In the current state of affairs, for example, where the rules start by defining internet broadcasting as internet posts accessible to at least 100 internet users in Lesotho, whether individually or in a series, and internet posts by users who have more than 100 followers in Lesotho, the question that springs to mind is on what principle the LCA based its determination of the number 100!

14) MISA Lesotho further holds a view that LCA awaits the ongoing Multi-Stakeholder, Multi-Sectoral National Reforms, before rushing into promulgating any rules.

15) MISA-Lesotho is also concerned about the capacity of the LCA to implement the rules without political interference, as well as its capacity to effectively monitor the internet and bring offenders to book.

We reiterate our position as MISA-Lesotho that ours is to protect all shades of society in as far as the right to freedom of expression of opinion is concerned.

Our quest is to see an informed society through constant provision of information, public education and entertainment provided by the various media platforms. This, we believe, will lead to a balanced society.

The advent of ICT and the social media platforms has played a catalytic role in amplifying the voices of the previously marginalised members of society who were not able to access content of the mainstream media. NW

Lekhetho Makhanya Ntsukunyane the National Director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho Chapter. This a submission he made to the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) Chief Executive Officer regarding the proposed promulgation of the LCA (Internet Broadcasting) Rules, 2020. Read the original submission here.

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