14 June 2014

Swaziland: Paper Defies Court Over Sources

Photo: Leadership
Court gavel.

The Swazi Observer newspaper has refused to disclose to the Swaziland High Court its sources in a report that said the Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi had issued warrants for the arrest of three judges in the kingdom.

The Registrar of the High Court wrote to the newspaper which is in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch. The letter said, 'On May 19, 2014 you wrongfully and intentionally published a scandalous and contemptuous story to the effect that the Chief Justice of Swaziland had issued warrants against three High Court Judges.'

According to a report in the Swazi News, a rival publication to the Observer, the registrar's letter went on to say, 'when it was brought to the attention of the editor of the Swazi Observer that the allegation was false and a blatant lie aimed at scandalising the chief justice, the Judiciary and the administration of justice in Swaziland, he remained defiant.'

The Swazi News said, 'The registrar said the editor instead issued another publication on May 20, 2014 where it was stated that they stood by their story.'

The letter continued, 'In these circumstances you are hereby called upon to produce proof of the so-called warrants of arrests within two days from receipt of this letter [11 June 2014] or face the legal consequences for your blatant and contemptuous lies, a dirty campaign which you have passionately been waging for sometime now.'

Swazi Observer Managing Editor Mbongeni Mbingo responded in writing to the office of the Registrar of the High Court. It read in part, 'Unfortunately, we are not in a position to disclose information, material and sources of our publications, which we have a legal and ethical duty to protect.'

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