Lesotho newspaper editor 'denied chance for closure': AI

Rights group Amnesty International has called on Lesotho authorities to "show their commitment to press freedom" by resolving the case of a prominent journalist Lloyd Mutungamiri, who is still awaiting justice two years on from the shooting that nearly took his life.

Mutungamiri, an editor at Lesotho Times, was left fighting for his life in 2016 after a failed assassination attempt by suspected members of the military at his Maseru home. 

African Independent reported at the time that the Zimbabwean born journalist was shot on the drive way of his home as he was about to drive to work.

Mutungamiri suffered near-fatal gunshot wounds in an attack that followed his newspaper's publication of an article alleging that the outgoing Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, was to receive an exit package of approximately $3.5 million, Amnesty International said in a statement.

Five members of the LDF were arrested and charged with attempted murder on November 29, 2017. They appeared in court for the first hearing on December 13, 2017, but the trial has never commenced and has been fraught with delays.

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The group said that Mutungamiri had never fully recovered after the shooting and he needed medical treatment. The situation had left him with excessive medical costs, especially now, as he was unable to return to work.

"The fact that Lloyd Mutungamiri's case is still open, with no clear dates set to resolve it in court, means he is denied the chance for closure. After two long years, Lloyd and his family deserve justice now," said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International's deputy regional director for Southern Africa.

Mwananyanda said that the delay by the Lesotho government's in bringing Mutungamiri's attackers to justice, through a fair, independent and impartial trial, was an affront to press freedom.

"The trial of the military members suspected of trying to kill him should send a clear message that targeting journalists is not tolerated in Lesotho, but there has still been no trial and a culture of impunity prevails," said Mwananyanda.