21 April 2013

Swaziland: Fund Set Up in Bid to Pay Editor's Fine

Photo: Salfalko/Flickr
Court hammer:

Media organisations in Swaziland are appealing for donations to raise E200,000 (US$22,000) to pay the fine for Bheki Makhubu, Editor of the Nation magazine.

If he does not pay by Tuesday (23 April 2013), he will be sent to jail for two years.

The sentence was imposed on Makhubu by the Swazi High Court after it convicted him of 'scandalising' the court by writing two articles criticising the judiciary.

The Swaziland National Association of Journalists (SNAJ) is leading the appeal which has been sent to the donor community, journalists, media practitioners, civil society, media stakeholders and members of the general public.

Makhubu has said he will appeal the sentence, but the grounds for such appeal have not been made public, and they are not immediately obvious to media watchers of the kingdom. Observers expect Mukhuba to be imprisoned on Tuesday.

Mfanukhona Nkambule, SNAJ President said it was imperative to be ready for any eventuality.

He said, 'We have to be on full alert and eliminate any possibility for Makhubu to go to jail. This we can do by raising the money to pay the fine. SNAJ is a credible association that believes in the principle of financial transparency; interested donors will have access to audited financial statements. Donors can notify Makhubu and the Nation Magazine of any contributions made towards the Fund so that there is transparency in the fund-raising drive.'

Nkambule said interested donors could contact him at +268 7621 6503 for more information.

In an interview with the Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland, Makhubu said he and the Nation magazine could not afford to pay the fine.

The newspaper quoted him saying, 'We really appreciate what SNAJ is doing and we must thank them for the support they are showing.'

He added, 'I am also receiving calls from other people who are willing to also support as it is impossible for such a small magazine to have so much money.'

The SNAJ appeal so far has the support of a growing number of organisations including, the Media Institute of Southern Africa, Swaziland chapter; the National Association of Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) and the Swaziland national Association of Teachers (SNAT).

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