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(GIN) — Rarely does an attack on a journalist get worldwide attention and provoke alarm and outrage from the newswriting community, who cite threats to freedom of expression in a young and fledgling democracy nestled in the tip of South Africa. But the murder of radio journalist Ralikonelo “Leqhashasha” Joki of Lesotho has stirred commentators from shore to shore.

Joki, host of the current affairs show “Hlokoana-La-Tsels” (“I heard it through the Grapevine”), worked for Ts-enolo FM radio station and covered government, agriculture, and corruption.

He was shot at least 13 times on May 14 by unknown assailants as he left the studio at 10 p.m. after his Sunday evening show.

The Lesotho chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) responded within hours, calling Joki’s death an attempt to silence journalists. He was often critical of politicians and government policy and had received death threats.

Kananelo Boloetse, chair of MISA-Lesotho, said phantom Facebook accounts were created in Joki’s name in the months before his death. 

“The killing itself is alarming and paints a frightening picture of Lesotho in the international community,” said Boloetse. “From Sunday, Lesotho is now being seen as a country where journalism is risking your life.”

Another little-known fact is that Lesotho has the third-highest homicide rate in the world, behind El Salvador and Jamaica, according to the latest World Population Review report, with 43.5 murders for every 100,000 people. El Salvador recorded 52 and Jamaica 43.8.

For now, police minister Lebona Lephema has revoked all firearm licenses, saying killings “seem to have skyrocketed.” In January, Chief of Police Holomo Molibeli stopped any new firearm licenses from being issued.

However, a rampant gun culture does not feature prominently in the discussions about ending gun-related murders that have increased in recent years.

Army Commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli put it aptly last September when he said that “owning a gun in Lesotho is like owning a blanket.” 

Ghanaian journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas commented: “African journalists are dying. They need the world’s help to hold power to account.”

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