The most active Lesotho social media users should brace for tighter controls of their activities, in the face of proposed new regulations requiring them to obtain a certificate to enable them to operate.
The Lesotho Government has, through the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA), proposed new regulations that stipulate that individuals with more than 100 followers on social media platforms be considered as internet broadcasters, and be required to register with the authorities.
The proposed Lesotho Communications Authority (Internet Broadcasting) Rules 2020 seeks to regulate “internet broadcasting distributed over the internet.” It proposes that internet posts that are accessible to more than 100 users should be considered as internet broadcasts.
A person with at least 100 followers would need to register with the LCA by providing identity documents, proof of residence and show “ability to comply with Lesotho Telecommunications Authority (Broadcasting) Rules 2004.”
Upon receipt of these documents, LCA would then issue a certificate of registration.
The proposed regulations define an internet post as any message, whether text, picture, video or audio, that is placed or uploaded on any internet platform to be accessed by the public, be it on social media or website.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) slammed the proposed regulations, saying they are an affront to the tenets of freedom of speech. According to MISA, the proposed regulations were initially “ostensibly meant to regulate bloggers and online radio stations.”
“However, the use of the word ‘followers’ is vague, and could also be used to regulate social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, which are widely used in Lesotho,” the regional media freedom watchdog said.
It added, “We urge Lesotho to withdraw these proposed regulations and rather work on promoting free expression online.”
If the regulations are passed, Lesotho would have followed in the footsteps of Tanzania in seeking to regulate online content creators.