Lesotho Communications Authority strongly advises its licensees and consumers of electronic communications to avoid distributing misleading or fake information about the corona virus or the Covid-19 pandemic in Lesotho. The distribution of false and fake information about the corona virus undermines the national efforts to contain the pandemic.
The Authority warns the public that the publication and distribution of false or fake information is an offence under a number of legislative instruments and perpetrators of these acts could be prosecuted under any of the following legal instruments:
1. Legal Notice No. 26 of 2020: Declaration of Covid-19 State of Emergency Notice
2. Public Health (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020
3. Communications Act 2012, and
4. Broadcasting Rules, 2004
The public should note that the publishing of fake news constitutes an offence under section 3(f) of the 2020 Declaration of Covid-19 State of Emergency Notice and broadcast licensees may not publish such news.
Furthermore, the Public Health (COVID-19) Regulations under section 10(5) provides that “no person shall publish or spread fake or false information. Any person who contravenes the provisions of sub-regulation (5) commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding 5,000 Maloti or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one month or both”.
The public should further note that Section 44(1) (e) of the Communications Act, makes it an offence to intentionally modify or interfere with the contents of any message sent by means of a communications service.
In addition, Rule 8(2) of the Broadcasting Rules provides that news and information should be presented in the correct context and in a balanced manner without intentional or negligent departure from facts whether through: distortion, exaggeration or misinterpretation, material omission or summarizing or editing. Furthermore, Rule 15(2) of the same Broadcasting Rules makes it mandatory for advertisements to have no description, claims or other material which might directly or by implication, mislead about the product or service advertised or about its suitability for the purpose recommended.
It is on the basis of the above legal provisions, that the Authority advises its licensees and the public to be cautious when receiving information and messages from any source, including social media about the Covid-19. The news media outlets are reminded that the National Command Centre is available for all clarifications on Covid-19 issues and the following toll-free numbers: 8009 3030 and 8003 2020 could be used as well.
The Authority stands ready to take tough measures against its licensees who willfully misleads the public on Covid-19 and will support law enforcement authorities in ensuring that perpetrators who disseminate fake news using online platforms are prosecuted and fined.
Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) is a statutory body, established in June 2000, with the mandate of regulating the communications sector in Lesotho comprising telecommunications, broadcasting, postal services and related matters.