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The zanufication of LTV



Since Dr Moeketsi Majoro became the Prime Minister he has been avoiding making the tough calls. He was boxed into a corner with NACOSEC and Thabo Khasipe. And truth be told, he backed down. I guess it was in an effort not to upset others or lose status in the eyes of ABC factions. Maybe he wanted to appear fair to everybody. It is difficult being a Prime Minister and it is even worse when you do not sit on the executive committee of your party. In my view, he made the best decisions last Friday. This country is in a mess. The Covid-19 pandemic is out of control and people are dying every day and poor Health Minister Motlatsi Maqelepo was out of his depth. The Ministry of Health was out of his league! I am glad he was given another opportunity elsewhere. Minister Thesele ’Maseribane had captured Lesotho Television. I am glad he has been moved to the Ministry of Small Business Development. This week I want to focus on the damage ’Maseribane caused at Lesotho Television. I am glad he has been relieved of his duties as Minister of Communications. January 14, 2021 was just another Thursday. But when I turned on the news bulletin on Lesotho Television (LTV), I could not believe what I was seeing. The Basotho National Party (BNP) public service announcement was being aired on a prime-time news bulletin. How could a public broadcaster place a political party message as the main news item? Could this mean Minister Thesele ’Maseribane had a hidden agenda and was forcing the LTV editorial team to join him in his mess? As if that was not enough Minister ’Maseribane also appeared on TV interviewing Lebuajoang Simon Thebe-ea-Khale. A whole Minister was the interviewer and Thebe-ea-Khale was the interviewee. I was shocked to see a whole minister doing the job of reporters or news producers. Minister ’Maseribane had relegated a public broadcaster, Lesotho Television (LTV) to the Basotho National Party Television (BNPTV). Lately it was rare to watch an LTV bulletin that did not air news on Quthing. There was also a TV programme known as Tseba ka Lesotho in which there are flashes of former BNP leader Leabua Jonathan almost every day. Why not other former heads of government? Your guess is as good as mine. I am sure reporters at LTV were as annoyed as I was by this nonsense of being manipulated into serving as BNP propagandists. Journalists come from different political parties. They know how journalism ethics work. Yet they had been turned into propaganda activists. They had joined the circus because they were serving under a Minister who thought he could use our national broadcaster like we are under some repressive regime under Leabua Jonathan. I can’t imagine what ’Maseribane was thinking as he was storming up these ideas. Maybe he remembered the song that used to play on Lesotho Radio, “Leabua ke Mmuso” in nostalgia, and thought the onus was on him to continue this legacy. Otherwise I can’t fathom how one could be so shamelessly regressive. Minister ’Maseribane’s interaction with LTV was supposed to only be when he was being interviewed or when he was officiating. I find it shocking that a junior partner in this coalition government had found a new tool in controlling his political party’s messaging: state-owned television. This was disturbing because when the BNP was in opposition it advocated for state television to serve the interests of all citizens and provide information free of political influence. However, under ’Maseribane they had turned our national broadcaster into a BNP Television. I used to find this latest manipulation problematic. ’Maseribane was beginning to use the LTV to push party propaganda and it is possible he was even going to use the platform to smear his political rivals and critics. In my opinion this contradicts the basic notion of press freedom. Not only do these tactics add political influence to LTV but they effectively regulate free speech from the top down. Speakers have been restrained and barred from entering LTV premises because the Minister did not agree with their political views. This is unconstitutional. A former president of the BNP youth league, who is not in ’Maseribane’s camp, was once invited by the presenter of a programme on LTV but was called one hour before the programme began to inform her that the presenter had received a directive from above not to include her as part of the panel. I guess you know who the authority was. I am glad the Minister has been removed he will no longer use LTV as his personal property, to campaign for his party and to fight his personal battles. The BNP is a dead horse and no amount of hogging the public broadcaster will resuscitate it. It’s shocking that in 2021, when there should be a plan to revive the public broadcaster in terms of content and editorial, we had a minister who wanted to control production and use the platform to advance his dead party. These actions by ’Maseribane were turning Lesotho into a banana republic just like its founding father did in the 70s. Instead of ensuring that local content is broadcast on LTV he was busy wasting our time. Limkwongkwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT) provides courses in media production, journalism, broadcasting, film and photography yet the creatives of this country have been lamenting the lack of reform at LTV to air their productions. ’Maseribane was supposed to stick to his work! Now he is being reshuffled. Greater influence over the LTV was just one component of his strategy to control the press: ’Maseribane used to give instructions to whoever was on duty attending events. Thank you, Mr Prime Minister for putting this madness to an end. When ’Maseribane was seeking to intervene too directly or too powerfully to influence citizen opinion, his intervention or role was suspect. I suppose Majoro must have watched the news on that sad day when ’Maseribane appeared on TV interviewing Thebe-ea-Khale. As if that was not enough, in the same news bulletin, the BNP Covid-19 message was read on that prime-time slot. It was worrying that a public broadcaster like LTV seemed to be dominated by BNP content. ’ Maseribane’s influence on LTV could distort public opinion and unduly influence public decisions. Maybe that was his mission. I knew he would fail in using LTV as his propaganda machinery. The third objection to Thesele’s party influence on LTV was that it was impinging on individual autonomy. It was wrong to coerce individuals into carrying BNP message on LTV. It was very unfortunate that a news anchor was coerced to proclaim the BNP Covid-19 message. Did that mean the BNP was the only party with a Covid-19 message? ’Maseribane was a vivid reminder of someone with no intentions of service but was only concerned with advancing his party’s influence. This man was uninterested in building platforms for the hundreds of hungry creatives in the country. However, his only interest was in lobbying more people to join the BNP. To maintain the status quo, ’Maseribane was only interested in the politics of favours and political allegiance instead of politics of development. Ramahooana Matlosa

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