Swaziland: Govt Bans MPs From the Radio

Photo: James Oatway/OXFAM
A damaged radio: In Swaziland broadcasting is state controlled.

Swaziland Members of Parliament say they are being banned from the radio airwaves by the government.

They say it is because of a policy made by the Swazi Cabinet.

A row erupted in the House of Assembly when MPs accused Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini of keeping them off the airwaves. In Swaziland broadcasting is state controlled and the PM is editor-in-chief of the SBIS radio stations and the Swazi TV Channel.

Dlamini said MPs could not go on air without the permission of their areas' chiefs. He said it was wrong for them to just go on radio with issues which the chiefs were not even aware of.

This is not the first time the government has been shown to be censoring the airwaves.

In August 2012 it was revealed that radio stations in Swaziland would be banned from broadcasting news and information that did not support the government's own agenda.

Coverage of all events was banned 'except those authorised by relevant authorities', according to the rules.

The guidelines also bar 'public service announcements' unless they are 'in line with government policy' or have been authorised 'by the chiefs through the regional administrators' or deputy prime minister's office'.

The guidelines say the radio stations, which fall under the control of the Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Service (SBIS), cannot be 'used for purposes of campaigning by individuals or groups, or to advance an agenda for political, financial popularity gains for individuals or groups'.

There is a long history of censorship on state broadcasting in Swaziland. Strikes and anti-government demonstrations are usually ignored by broadcasters. Sometimes live radio programmes are censored on air. In July 2011, the plug was pulled on a phone-in programme when listeners started criticising the government for its handling of the economy. Percy Simelane, who was then the boss of SBIS, and is now the government's official spokesperson, personally stormed the radio studio and cut the programme.

In April 2011, Welile Dlamini, a long-time news editor at SBIS, challenged the Prime Minister at an editors' forum meeting on why the state radio station was told by the government what and what not to broadcast. Dlamini said that at the station they were instructed to spike certain stories such as those about demonstrations by progressives and strike action by workers. The PM responded by saying editors should resign if they were not happy with the editorial policies they are expected to work with.

In March 2011, SBIS stopped broadcasting the BBC World Service Focus on Africa programme after it carried reports critical of King Mswati III. In the same month, SBIS failed to cover the march by nurses that forced the Swazi Government into paying them overdue allowances.

In 2010, Swazi police told SBIS it must stop allowing people to broadcast information about future meetings unless the police had given permission. Jerome Dlamini, Deputy Director of the SBIS said this was to stop the radio station airing an announcement for a meeting that was prohibited.

He said, 'It's the station's policy not to make announcements without police permission.'

Ads by Google

Copyright © 2012 Swazi Media Commentary. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.

InFocus

Media Censorship Continues in Swaziland

File photo:Members of the press

The Media Institute of Southern Africa has blasted the government for its continued violation of fundamental rights and freedoms. Read more »

Swazi Govt Bans Lawmakers From Speaking on Radio

A damaged radio: In Swaziland broadcasting is state controlled.

Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini is accused of censoring the airwaves as lawmakers say they are being banned from speaking on the radio. Read more »