SouthernDefenders calls on the Lesotho government to thoroughly investigate the brutal murder of prominent journalist, Ralikonelo ‘Leqashasha’ Joki and strongly condemns the recurrent attacks against press freedom in the country
Johannesburg | Maseru
May 17, 2023
The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SouthernDefenders) calls on the Lesotho authorities to thoroughly investigate the killing of prominent journalist, Ralikonelo ‘Leqhashaha’ Joki, and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.
SouthernDefenders strongly condemns the brutal murder of Joki, who was a host of the current affairs show ‘Hlokoana-La-Tsela’ (I Heard It Through the Grapevines), on the privately owned radio station, Ts’enolo FM. According to several reports, unknown gunmen shot Joki several times on 14 May 2023, as he was leaving work around 10 pm.
At the time of his death, Joki was popularly known as one of the independent voices in the Kingdom, who used his show as an instrument to fearlessly speak out on pressing issues centred on the government, agriculture and exposing corruption, which implicates some of the country’s top politicians, including breaking a 2021 story about five politicians who were illegally trading alcohol. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, in March and April of this year, Joki received at least three death threats from different Facebook accounts due to his work and the issues he covered on his show.
Similarly, on 9 July 2016, Lesotho Times editor, Lloyd Mutungamiri, was shot twice outside his home in Maseru on his way back from work and was left in critical condition. The journalist was attacked two weeks after publishing an article exposing how the outgoing leader of the Lesotho Defence Force. Tlali Kamoli was to receive an exit package of approximately US$3.5 million. A year after his attempted killing, five members of the Lesotho Defence Force stood trial, which is yet to be finalized.
SouthernDefenders strongly condemns the attacks and murders of journalists in Lesotho, a national phenomenon which has been recurring for many years with widespread impunity. It is unacceptable that individuals who independently and impartially choose to exercise their right to freedom of speech and media freedom by speaking on issues of public importance are being targeted and subjected to attacks and killings. Therefore, authorities must take charge and send a clear signal to those who believe they can kill or attack journalists for executing their duties.
SouthernDefenders urges the Lesotho authorities:
- Strongly condemn the killing of Joki and the targeting of journalists in the country;
- Take immediate action by carrying out an independent and impartial investigation into the killing of Joki, and any other journalists who have suffered attacks, with a view to bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
- Take measures to ensure that government officials or other public figures refrain from making statements that threaten the legitimate work of journalists in the country;
- Ensure in all circumstances, that journalists are able to carry out their legitimate work, as guaranteed in Lesotho’s Constitution and the regional and international treaties that Lesotho has ratified;
- Put an end to the targeting of journalists in the country and guarantee in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment and threats to their lives.