20 August 2014

Swaziland: Jailed Magazine Editor to Appeal

The Swaziland magazine editor Bheki Makhubu, jailed for two years for writing articles critical of Swazi judges, is to appeal against his sentence.

In the appeal papers lawyers for Makhubu say the High Court Judge Mpendulo Simelane erred on several matters when convicting the editor of the Nation magazine.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa reported, 'Many local and international observers condemned the sentence of Makhubu and his co-accused Thulani Maseko, saying that the trial highlighted the crumbling state of free speech while raising more questions over the independence of the justice system.'

The Nation magazine and the Swaziland Independent Publishers (PTY) Ltd, which were also found guilty on two counts of contempt of court and sentenced to a fine of E50,000 (US$5,000) on each count, are also to appeal sentence.

In his appeal statement Makhubu said the sentence had stifled 'vibrant journalism' in Swaziland. Broadcast media are almost entirely state-controlled and censorship is endemic.

In his appeal, Makhubu said Judge Simelane's sentence was 'so harsh that it has the effect of discouraging critical and vibrant journalism in this country'.

In his judgement at the High Court, Judge Simelane had said, 'No one, I repeat, has a right to write scurrilous articles in the manner the Accused persons did. Such conduct destroys public confidence in the Courts, without which this country cannot function effectively. The Courts hence have to use the very ammunition of Contempt of Court in self-protection from journalists like the Accused persons.'

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