Authorities in Lesotho must launch a prompt, independent and impartial investigation after the editor of the Lesotho Times Lloyd Mutungamiri was left in a critical condition in hospital after being attacked by unknown gunmen on July 9, Amnesty International said today.
The organization has urged authorities to bring those responsible to justice and ensure that journalists in Lesotho can work freely and without threats to their safety. Mutungamiri was attacked upon arrival to his home at Ha Thamae, Maseru, where he sustained gunshot wounds. He is currently being treated at Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital in Maseru.
“The deplorable attack on the life of the Lesotho Times editor Lloyd Mutungamiri is also an attack on the right to freedom of expression. Authorities must leave no stone unturned in getting to the bottom of this act and bring all those suspected of criminal responsibility to justice,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.
“His shooting is particularly disturbing because it comes amidst increased harassment and intimidation against the newspaper for its investigative journalism work.”
On July 5, the publisher of the newspaper Basildon Peta was charged with defamation and crimen injuria after the newspaper published a satirical column known as Scrutator. The column satirizedthe perceived influence of the LDF Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli.
Mutungamiri’s shooting has left journalists in the Lesotho Times newsroom fearing for their lives. The authorities have failed to implement effective protection measures to ensure they can continue carrying out their job in a safe environment.
“This attack has chilling implications for the independence of journalism, not just in the Lesotho Times newsroom, but for all journalists in the country, and will have an impact on the right of everyone to seek and receive information,” said Mwananyanda.
“There must be no impunity for those who seek to silence freedom of expression through violence. Authorities must act swiftly to ensure justice for the shooting and send a clear message that such acts cannot be tolerated.”
Lloyd Mutungamiri was charged with criminal defamation in September 2014 for reporting on police corruption. His case was never brought to court.