12 January 2013

Swaziland: No Press Freedom At 'Observer' - MD

The managing director of the Swazi Observer group Alpheous Nxumalo has told his newspaper's readers that he will not allow prodemocracy voices to be published.

This comes at the end of a year when editors at the newspaper, in effect owned by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, were suspended from duty after claims from bosses they had not been following the original mandate of the newspaper.

Nxumalo, writing in the Observer on Friday (11 January 2013), said democracy activists were trying to 'subvert the national institutions such as the monarchy and the government in order to advance the agenda of radicalising the Swazi nation'.

He said that media had been used 'to attack the government and other subordinates institutions with impunities. This has all been done in the name of freedom of press. I submit that media freedom should not be an instrument for subversive manipulation of society.'

He added, 'I will not submit to a mandate in contradiction with the mandate of the Swazi monarchy and its subsidiary institutions.'

Writing about what he called 'press freedom', he said, 'It should not be an instrument to undermine legitimately constituted authority.'

He added, 'However, the media house that I work for shall never be part of the networks whose agenda is to undermine, denigrate and subvert the minds and the hearts of the Swazis -no, not under our watch. Media freedoms without media responsibilities are media witchcraft (butsakatsi).'

He went on, 'Insulting the monarchy and radicalising the Swazi nation against the institutions of the monarchy, will never democratise Swaziland.'

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland chapter, a media monitoring organisation that promotes freedom of speech, last month criticised the Observer for failures in press freedom.

In a statement, it said during 2012, 'The Swazi Observer Group of Newspapers proprietor also suspended editors of its daily and weekly papers on the allegation of not carrying out the newspaper's original mandate. Six months later, MISA and stakeholders are still waiting with bated breath for the findings of the investigations and closure of the matter. The continued extension of their suspension amounts to violation of their constitutional right to media freedom.'

In his article Nxumalo said, 'So, in 2013, we will continue to safeguard the original mandate of the institutions that we have been deployed to safeguard and shall do so without fear or favour.'

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