Readers of the Times of Swaziland group are boycotting buying the newspapers and they are encouraging advertisers to pull out.
They are dismayed that the newspaper group failed to apologise after the Times Sunday published an article that said battered women were 'bitches' and that 'most' women who were beaten up by men brought it upon themselves.
Instead, Martin Dlamini, the managing editor of the Times of Swaziland group, publicly defended the right of his newspaper to publish the article, written by Qalakaliboli Dlamini.
Now, a grassroots campaign has started that is spreading by word of mouth among ordinary readers. They are not buying any of the Times group newspapers - the Times of Swaziland, the Swazi News and the Times Sunday - and are asking people they know not to either.
They are also telling advertisers that they will not buy their goods and services if they continue to advertise in the newspapers.
Among the groups being targeted are supermarket and members of the Swaziland Rotary Club. Also on the list are international organisations and Swazi NGOs which advertised in the newspaper recently in support of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign.
Readers believe these groups would be appalled to discover they had given money to the newspapers which claimed to support the anti-violence campaign and then published the article in the Times Sunday. The article complained of made direct reference to the 16 Days campaign as being 'just a farce'.
The advertising boycott campaign might prove to be effective. In 2008, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) published a report on Swazi journalism, based on interviews with editors and senior media workers, which concluded, 'The threat of losing advertising is real, this is especially so as the economy of Swaziland is declining. The privately owned media is dependent on advertising to survive, and since a small number of organisations spend so much the media houses give serious consideration every time there is a complaint from an advertiser.'
Since the article was published in the Times Sunday, a petition demanding an apology from the Times and supported by Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA), Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organizations, Coordinating Assembly for Non-Governmental Organisations (CANGO), Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders, Swaziland National Association of Teachers, Swaziland Positive Living and the Swaziland Agricultural Producers Union (SAPU) has been circulating.