In the wake of police attacks on working journalists, MISA Swaziland jointly with the Swaziland Editors Forum (SEF) on Monday met National Police Commissioner, Isaac Magagula, at the Royal Swaziland Police Headquarters. Times of Swaziland reporter Sisho Magagula was manhandled and had his pictures deleted from the company camera at Kontshingila area by the Hlathikhulu Police Station desk officer two weeks ago. This incident was followed by another at Gege area last Saturday when a cop drew a gun against photojournalist, Water Dlamini, who was covering protesting community members.
The purpose of the meeting was twofold: one was to express the media fraternity's concern on the continued attacks on journalists in the line of duty, and second was to come up with interventions to bring to an end media freedom violations perpetrated by the men in uniform in the country who disguised them as maintenance of peace and order.
At the meeting, MISA Swaziland brought to the attention of the National Police Commissioner the negative effects on media freedom. It was pointed out to him that such acts tarnish the image of the country internationally, waste the media houses' resources and threaten the lives of journalists. It was heartening to hear the National Police Commissioner condemning the unprofessional conduct of the police towards the media.
The Institute takes this opportunity to extend its gratitude to the National Police Commissioner who granted the media an audience on this serious matter. It was gratifying to hear him acknowledging that "the police and media" need each other to remain agents of national development. Showing serious commitment to their public service mandate, both parties proposed the following interventions: a police training course on media function, press cards and media gear (beeps) for easy identification.
MISA Swaziland welcomes the National Police Commissioner's idea to introduce a course on the role of the media in the police syllabus at the Royal Swaziland Police College. There is no doubt that this will go a long way in making the police understand and appreciate the role of the media. Working hand in hand with its partners, the Institute will make sure that his wishes become a reality in the not-so-distant future.
Lastly, we applaud the National Police Commissioner for setting up an inquiry to investigate the attacks on the two journalists. We look forward to the findings and hope that the police will share them with us. We also hope its recommendations will enable him to further professionalise the police force. Not only that, it will also come up with a lasting solution to the problem we are facing right now.