By Tatenda Dewa
Zimbabwe veteran journalist, Lloyd Mutungamiri, was shot and seriously wounded in Lesotho on Saturday night after being interrogated by police on a story his publication ran.
An alert by the Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) on Monday said Mutungamiri, the editor of the Lesotho Times newspaper, was battling for his life at a Maseru hospital.
SAHRDN is a network of human rights defenders in southern Africa.
“Mutungamiri, who is fighting for his life at a hospital in the capital Maseru, was attacked by some unidentified assailants around 23:00 hours on Saturday, 9 July 2016,” said SAHRDN.
“Prior to the shooting, Mutungamiri and Keiso Mohloboli, a journalist at The Lesotho Times newspaper had been interrogated on 23 June 2016 over the publication of an article entitled ‘Exit strategy for Kamoli’ in The Lesotho Times newspaper edition of 23-29 June 2016 and forced to disclose their sources,” added the human rights watchdog.
Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli is the current commander of the Lesotho Defence Forces (LDF).
Besides Mutungamiri and Mohloboli, the publisher of The Lesotho Times newspaper was also charged with defamation and crimen injuria on 5 July 2016.
“SAHRDN condemns the barbaric shooting of Mutungamiri and the persecution of media practitioners in Lesotho which is clearly aimed at intimidating, silencing and suppressing media freedom and freedom of expression in Lesotho at this critical time in the country’s history, when citizens in that that country desperately need impartial information,” noted the watchdog.
It added: “Such a callous attack puts responsibility on the government of Lesotho to publicly condemn this and other attacks on the media and launch a thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the shooting of Mutungamiri and make the findings of the investigation public and for suspected perpetrators to be brought to justice in accordance with international law.”
SAHRDN said it was not aware of any efforts by the Lesotho authorities to investigate the attempt on Mutungamiri’s life.
“A thorough investigation into this unwarranted attack on a media practitioner and the prosecution of those who masterminded it should send a message to would be perpetrators that such attacks won’t be executed and cannot continue with impunity,” said SAHRDN
It added that impartial media coverage was essential for the observance of human rights principles and urged the Lesotho government to take immediate steps to guarantee the security of journalists and human rights defenders.
SADC must “show leadership and condemn the trend of repression, criminalisation, prosecution and persecution of HRDs in Lesotho”, said SAHRDN. Nehanda Radio