Lusaka, May 15, 2023—Lesotho authorities must launch a credible investigation into the killing of journalist Ralikonelo ‘Leqhashasha’ Joki and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
Around 10 p.m. on Sunday, May 14, an unknown number of people shot Joki in the head once and body at least 13 times as he left the privately owned radio station Ts’enolo FM in the capital, Maseru, according to multiple news reports and a statement by the Lesotho chapter of regional press freedom group Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA).
Joki, the host of the current affairs show “Hlokoana-La-Tsela” (I Heard It Through the Grapevine), covered government, agriculture, and corruption, and was best known for breaking a 2021 story about five politicians who were illegally trading alcohol.
The journalist received at least three death threats from different Facebook accounts in March and April related to his work as a journalist, according to screenshots reviewed by CPJ and Ts’enolo FM’s station manager, Mshengu Tshabalala, and program manager, Rets’epile Maloi, who communicated with CPJ via messaging app. The threats did not cite specific reporting.
“Authorities in Lesotho must thoroughly investigate the killing of Ts’enolo FM host Ralikonelo ‘Leqhashasha’ Joki and ensure those responsible are brought to justice,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “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.”
On July 9, 2016, an unknown number of assailants shot Mutungamiri twice outside his home in Maseru as he returned from work and left him in a critical condition. The trial is expected to proceed in July 2023.
Investigative journalist Keiso Mohloboli told CPJ by messaging app that she believes Joki’s killing was in connection to his work, citing the Facebook threats.
Kananelo Boloetse, chair of the Lesotho chapter of MISA, told CPJ by messaging app that although the motive behind Joki’s killing remains unclear, they have “every reason to believe he was attacked in relation to his work following threats on his life on Facebook.”
In response to the shooting, the government will impose a country-wide curfew beginning on Tuesday, May 16, between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., according to a televised announcement by Minister of Police Lebona Lephema.
CPJ’s app message to Lesotho Police spokesperson Mpiti Mopeli did not receive an immediate response.
In 2015, unknown people armed with guns raided Ts’enolo FM and threatened the presenter on duty over the station’s critical reporting on the government, Maloi told CPJ.
Editor’s note: The fifth paragraph of this report has been updated to reflect that Lloyd Mutungamiri survived the 2016 attack. The seventh paragraph has been updated to clarify that Keiso Mohloboli did not work directly with Joki. The photo caption has been corrected to credit the Lesotho Tribune.