Paradigm Initiative is deeply concerned over the proposed Internet Broadcasting Regulations announced by the Lesotho Communications Authority. As stipulated in the Lesotho Communications Authority (Internet Broadcasting) Rules, 2020 sections 5(1) (c) and 38(2) of the Communications Act No. 4 of 2012, the Authority intends to regulate internet broadcasting and content distributed over internet networks for users with over 100 followers or internet posts that are accessible to over 100 users, whether posted individually or in a series.
In addition, account holders with over 100 followers will be required to register and comply with the principles and standards set out in the Broadcast Act of 2004.
According to the regulator, this move is meant to enable them to regulate the sector and carry out investigations on internet broadcasts that contravene broadcasting rules and subsequently facilitate the removal of such content.
According to the regulations, the rules shall apply to all internet broadcasting initiated from, targeted to or received in Lesotho and that are accessible to a large number of internet users and shall not apply to internet broadcasting regarded as private communication.
The regulations describe Internet posts as ‘any message, whether text, picture, video or audio that is placed or uploaded on any internet platform to be accessed by the public, be it on social media or website.
As advocates for online freedoms, we see this move as a direct attack on the online freedoms of many Basotho and an attempt to criminalise free speech and police the online space.
The proposed regulations go against the guarantees on Freedom of Expression in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Lesotho under Article 14 (1) which states that ‘Every person shall be entitled to, and (except with his own consent) shall not be hindered in his enjoyment of, freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference (whether the communication be to the public generally or to any person or class of persons) and freedom from interference with his correspondence.’
Rose Moremoholo a former Media Fellow at Paradigm Initiative notes that the move borders on suppression of people’s freedoms to freely access the internet and information without fear. “Holding power accountable is an element that is being threatened by these rules, we know that internet freedom is a human right and as such should be respected and protected at all costs,” she said.
In addition, the proposed regulations contradict the principles of the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedom and Article 19 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which stipulates that ‘Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.’
We urge the Lesotho Broadcasting Authority to halt this process and withdraw these proposed regulations. Further, we urge the authority to institute consultations with relevant stakeholders in the local internet ecosystem on how best to proceed.
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