Soldiers sue radio station

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Soldiers sue radio station
Soldiers sue radio station

Africa-Press – Lesotho. SIXTEEN soldiers who followed former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane into exile six years ago are demanding M10 million from a local radio station and a presenter they accuse of defaming them.
Arthur Majara, the 357 FM station manager, confirmed the soldiers’ demand against the media house and one of its presenters Lebohang Maketa. He said the soldiers had, through their lawyer Advocate Khotso Nthontho, sent him a letter of demand this week.

The aggrieved parties are the 16 army officers who skipped the country with Thabane at the height of political disturbances. Thabane later returned home, formed a coalition government before being deposed again last year.

After returning from exile, some of the soldiers resigned from the army while others returned to the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF). A few years down the line, the army officers instituted the legal proceedings against their boss, Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela, demanding compensation for alleged torture and unlawful arrest.

Now they are gunning for the radio station and presenter Maketa. In his letter of demand, Adv Nthontho said his clients’ complaints are based on an audio clip that has been circulating since 19 July 2021.

In the clip, Maketa intimated that the soldiers were mutinous. Majara said that the soldiers’ letter stated that the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) has convened a board of inquiry to investigate whether a mutiny happened.

The soldiers accuse Maketa of stating the mutiny allegation as fact. What further irked the soldiers is that Maketa allegedly read out their names live on radio without their consent or version of events.

Majara said the soldiers are claiming that they have been defamed and their reputation damaged by Maketa’s statements. Majara said the soldiers are also demanding a public apology and a withdrawal of the said defamatory statements on air.

They said they will approach the courts if the radio station does not pay. However, the radio station is digging in, with Majara insisting that “the constitution of the nation is clear that the soldiers do not enjoy freedoms similar to those of civilians”.

“They cannot claim defamation, they do not qualify,” he argued. He likened the soldiers to Lt Gen Letsoela’s children “who have to ask for permission from him to get married or to get any property”.
He added that even the authenticity of the audio clip being referred to by the soldiers’ lawyer was “highly questionable”. “He cannot build a case against us.

We cannot even reply to this (the letter of demand) because it is nonsense. It is silly. To whom should we apologise and for what?” argued Majara. On air, Maketa referred to the court case in which the soldiers’ are demanding compensation from the army.

“I sought the Commander’s comment and he confirmed that to us,” he said. Maketa said he asked the commander if the soldiers’ actions were mutinous. He said the army commander told him that military law considered it mutiny if two soldiers connive against the commander.

In a different case, opposition leader Professor Nqosa Mahao has asked the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) to investigate 357 FM for allegedly breaching broadcasting regulations.

Prof Mahao alleged that the radio station has been holding programmes to denigrate him and tarnish his reputation over the past six months. He alleged that the programmes are full of hate speech and amount to character assassination.

“I have asked the LCA, in line with its section 41 mandate, to carry out investigations against the station,” Prof Mahao said.
He accused the managing director of the radio station, Majara, of holding programmes to attack him “every Friday evening”. Majara declined to comment on Mahao’s accusations.
“I cannot comment because he has already taken the matter to the LCA,” Majara said. Prof Mahao said he had tolerated the attacks for long but his patience has since waned. Professor said the radio station has continued to attack him even after he approached the LCA.

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