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Lesotho imposes countrywide curfew after journalist shooting

Ralikonelo “Leqhashasha” Joki

Ralikonelo “Leqhashasha” Joki

Authorities in Lesotho have imposed an indefinite curfew in hopes of curbing gun violence in the South African mountain kingdom, in response to the shooting death of a journalist over the weekend.

About 10 pm Sunday, unknown assailants gunned down investigative journalist and radio presenter Ralikonelo “Leqhashasha” Joki as he left the radio station Ts’enolo FM in the capital, Maseru, after presenting his program. He was shot once in the head and at least 13 times in the body.

Less than 24 hours later, the government imposed a countrywide curfew that went into effect on Tuesday. The curfew restricts movement between 10 pm and 4 am, the country’s Police minister Lebona Lephema said, although hospitals, the media and the security sector are exempted from the rule.

Joki, host of the current affairs show “Hlokoana-La-Tsela” (“I Heard It Through the Grapevine”), reported on government affairs, corruption and organized crime. In 2021, he broke a story about five politicians who were illegally trading alcohol.

Joki’s killing was likely in retaliation for his reporting, according to press freedom groups. The journalist reportedly received at least three death threats from different Facebook accounts earlier this year that were related to his reporting. Out of 180 countries, Lesotho ranks 67 in terms of press freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Press freedom groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), called on local authorities to launch an investigation into Joki’s killing.

“Authorities in Lesotho must thoroughly investigate the killing of Ts’enolo FM host Ralikonelo ‘Leqhashasha’ Joki and ensure those responsible are brought to justice,” Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, said in a statement.

“An attempted murder trial after a similar attack on Lesotho Times editor Lloyd Mutungamiri in 2016 has dragged on for years. Authorities must send a clear signal to those who believe they can attack or kill journalists without consequence, that in Joki’s case at least, there will be swift accountability,” Quintal continued in the statement.

In July 2016, Mutungamiri was shot outside his home, leaving him in critical condition. The trial is expected to proceed in July this year.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Ralikonelo Joki and strictly condemn this senseless act of killing,” IFJ general secretary Anthony Bellanger said in a statement. “It is a matter of public interest to ensure the safety of those who fulfil their obligations towards the public’s right to know.”

Lesotho’s Police minister Lephema said the indefinite curfew was intended to address gun violence across the country. Lesotho has the world’s third-highest homicide rate, with more than 43 murders per 100,000 people, according to World Population Review.

But opposition leader Machesetsa Mofomobe criticized the curfew, saying it would not actually curb gun violence.

“People are not killed from 10 to 4, what is needed is a crime prevention strategy and money to implement that strategy,” the Basotho National Party leader said in a Facebook post.

Comments

-1 #1 WADADA rogers 2023-05-18 20:51
The decision is to harsh and uncalled for, a curfew because of one person's death
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0 #2 kabayekka 2023-05-19 19:14
It seems those people that this journalist was so much against must be rounded up and interogated until they can speak their own side of their eniquities.

The countrywide curfew is unnecessary indeed. Most people who deal in fish know very well where the rot of the big fish starts from!
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