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Rights bodies rebuff proposed internet laws

ICJ Africa Director, Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh

Oct. 16, 2020 3 min read

3 min read

MASERU - The Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) in collaboration with other international human rights bodies has called for the immediate withdrawal of the proposed internet broadcasting rules by government of Lesotho.

In partnership with the Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) and the International Commission of Justice (ICJ), TRC says the rules would pose serious obstacle to the enjoyment of freedom of expression and freedom of association.

Recently, the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) released a public consultation notice, notifying the general public that it intends to promulgate its internet broadcasting rules.

The objective of the proposed rules, the LCA says is to make provision for regulation of internet broadcasting and content distributed over the internet.

The proposed rules define the 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 the country.

“The draft rules will require persons who conduct internet broadcasting as defined in the draft rules, to register with the LCA and such persons will be required to comply with the broadcasting principles and standards under the Lesotho Telecommunications Authority (Broadcasting) Rules of 2004,” the LCA stated in a statement two weeks ago.

The draft rules will further empower the LCA to conduct investigations on internet broadcasting that are suspected of contravening the Lesotho Telecommunications Authority (Broadcasting) Rules and may direct or facilitate removal of such posts or content.

However, roughly two weeks later, the international human rights bodies are calling for its immediate withdrawal, saying the requirements constitute onerous and arbitrary restrictions on the exercise of the freedom of expression and freedom of association.

“Certain provisions of the proposed rules are vague and overboard and therefore, are open to abuse and could result in violations of human rights by authorities in Lesotho.

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LCA boss 'Mamarame Matela

“What we are currently witnessing in Lesotho is a trend that is used by other authorities in southern Africa to close down civic space through attacking a powerful resource like social media, and this especially comes after the recent resolution that was adopted by SADC Heads of States to take pre-emptive measures against external interference, impact of fake news and abuse of social media,” said the Regional Legal Advisor of SAHRDN Simphiwe Sidu in a joint statement with TRAC and ICJ on Wednesday.

The right to freedom of expression and the free flow of information is recognised in article 14(1) of the Constitution of Lesotho, while freedom of association is guaranteed in article 16 (1).

“The proposed rules are a threat to the freedom of expression, freedom of association and undermines many other related human rights in Lesotho’s Constitution and its international obligations especially on freedom of expression and association,” said ICJ Africa Director, Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh in the same statement.

These rights are also recognised in several international and regional instruments which include article 19 (2) and article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) just to mention a few.




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