7 September 2018

Southern Africa: Media Freedom Group Calls On SADC to Investigate Swaziland for 'State-Sponsored' Attacks On Journalists

A media rights group is calling on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to investigate Swaziland after a series of 'state-sponsored violations against journalists'.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe chapter made the move after police attacked a Times of Swaziland journalist Andile Nsibande who was photographing them during a workers' dispute where they fired shots.

It happened during a protest over low salaries at Zheng Yong textile factory in Nhlangano, Swaziland, the kingdom recently renamed Eswatini by its absolute monarch King Mswati III.

MISA reported in a statement, 'Nsibande was attacked for taking pictures of armed police officers and prison wardens attacking and firing shots at the protesting workers who were mostly women. Police officers demanded that Nsibande delete the pictures he had taken, and then proceeded to beat up the defenceless journalist.

'Nsibande was later taken to hospital where he received treatment.'

MISA called the police attack, 'an increasingly worrying development involving state security agents'. It added, 'This attack is the latest in a series of state-sponsored attacks against journalists in the kingdom of Eswatini, as Swaziland is now called. On 7 February 2018, a photojournalist with the Swazi Observer was attacked after he took pictures of a convoy of overcrowded vehicles transporting prison wardens.'

It added, 'Another photojournalist with the Sunday Observer was attacked on 13 July 2018 after he took pictures of government vehicles parked outside a deputy prime minister's office. Police forced the photojournalist to delete pictures he had taken.'

MISA called the attacks 'a direct attack on the rights to free expression and press freedom as explicitly protected in Section 24 of Eswatini's Constitution. Yet State security forces continue to attack journalists with impunity.'

It stated, 'MISA Zimbabwe appeals to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to look into these continued state-sponsored violations against journalists. It is high time the regional body condemned the continued use of state security agents to violate fundamental rights such as the right to free expression and the right to access information.'

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