28 April 2018

Swaziland: 'No Media Freedom in Swaziland'

There is no media freedom in Swaziland, according to the latest annual report from Reporters Without Borders.

The kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, stands at number 152 out of 180 in the world ranking.

In a report just published RWB stated the kingdom, 'prevents journalists from working freely and obstructs access to information. No court is allowed to prosecute or try members of the government, but any criticism of the regime is liable to be the subject of a prosecution.

'For fear of reprisals, journalists censor themselves almost systematically. In January 2018, an investigative journalist had to flee to South Africa after being threatened in connection with an article revealing the King's involvement in an alleged corruption case. His newspaper was closed on the King's orders.'

The report was referring to the case of Swaziland Shopping and its editor Zweli Martin Dlamini. It concluded there was 'no media freedom'.

Also just published is the US State Department review of human rights in Swaziland for 2017. It states that the Swazi Constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, 'but the King may deny these rights at his discretion, and the government severely restricted these rights in prior years'.

It added, 'Officials impeded press freedom. Although no law bans criticism of the monarchy, the prime minister and other officials cautioned journalists against publishing such criticism with veiled threats of newspaper closure or job loss.'

The report stated, 'The law empowers the government to ban publications if it deems them "prejudicial or potentially prejudicial to the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health." Most journalists practiced self-censorship. Journalists expressed fear of judicial reprisals for their reporting on some High Court cases and matters involving the monarchy.'

The report stated, 'Broadcast media remained firmly under state control. Most persons obtained their news from radio broadcasts. A controversial ministerial decree prohibiting MPs from speaking on the radio was apparently lifted. The government noted the decree had never been enforced. There was no instance, however, in which an MP had violated it. Despite invitations issued by the media regulatory authority for parties to apply for licenses, no licenses were awarded. Stations practiced self-censorship and refused to broadcast anything perceived as critical of the government or the monarchy.'


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