The Lesotho Court of Appeal has ruled that three journalists who had been banned from working following a dispute with their former editor should be allowed to set up their own newspaper.
Abel Chapatarongo, Shakeman Mugari and Caswell Tlali were reporters at the Lesotho Times until their resignation in 2013. They decided to set up their own newspaper, The Post, as they felt that the Lesotho Times limited their editorial independence.
However, the owner of the Times, Basildon Peta, alleged that the journalists knew business secrets and obtained a court order prohibiting them from setting up their own outlet or practicing journalism for 12 months. The order threatened the livelihoods of the journalists, made worse by delays in the judicial process which left them unable to appeal for over a year.
With financial support from the Media Legal Defence Initiative and others, the three journalists eventually appealed. In a standard-setting judgment, the Court of Appeal held that the journalists should never have been prohibited from practicing journalism and that it was “simply not acceptable” that the High Court had delayed delivering judgment on the matter, especially since the livelihood of the journalists had been at stake.
Abel Chapatarongo stressed the importance of the ruling: “This is not just a victory for The Post. It is a victory for all who dream of breaking the chains of tyranny and start their own business enterprises.”
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