Reporters Without Borders today urged the judicial authorities not to push Moafrika, an independent newspaper and radio station known for criticising the authorities, into closure because of non-payment of a fine 170,000 maloti (about 20,000 euros) which it was sentenced to pay in a libel suit in 2000.
Describing the fine as "out of all proportion to the resources available to a news media in Lesotho," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard appealed to the judicial authorities in a letter to be flexible and either reduce the amount of the fine or allow it to be paid in installments.
"If the judicial system is to be respected, it must not become a means for censoring news media by forcing them to stop operating," Ménard said.
Although Moafrika had begun to pay the fine in installments, three Lesotho high court sheriffs went to the offices of the radio on 16 June with an execution writ, threatening to seize all the movable equipment of the radio station and newspaper and the editor’s personal property, if the fine was not paid in full on the spot.
The sheriffs returned yesterday, put seals on the radio station’s computers and broadcasting equipment, and warned station director Candi Ratabane Ramainoane that they would return today to collect everything.