We should not believe the recently-appointed editor of the Swazi Observer when he claims his newspaper refuses to be anyone’s lapdog.
Thulani Thwala reckons the Observer publishes ‘news and information to assist [readers to] make informed decisions’.
Writing in his own newspaper today (22 December 2010), he makes the outlandish claim that the Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, is ‘getting closer and closer to our target of being the best read in the country’.
Nonsense. It is impossible to get official figures about the number of newspapers the Observer and its rival, the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily in the kingdom, sell each day. But anyone in Swaziland with eyes to see and ears to hear knows that the Observer sells a fraction of the number of copies of the Times. And the reason for this is simple: people in Swaziland see the Observer for what it is: the mouthpiece of the king and ruling power in the kingdom.
Thwala should talk to his boss Musa Ndlangamandla, the Observer Chief Editor. Ndlangamandla was proud to state in March 2010, ‘... our collective stand as a newspaper is that the integrity of Swaziland as a democratic State and His Majesty King Mswati III as the legitimate leader of the Swazi nation, must never be compromised in any way.’
Thwala himself stated, in his article ‘We are a proud watchdog for King and country and refuse to be anyone’s lapdog.’ He is so wrong, the newspaper shouldn’t be a watchdog for the king, it should be a watchdog for the people.
If Thwala wants the Observer to be an independent newspaper that publishes ‘news and information to assist them make informed decisions’, let him publish details of the Swazi Royal Family sex scandal from August 2010 that was reported around the world but not in Swaziland.
Let him also explain to his readers how it is that King Mswati has a personal fortune, estimated by Forbes in 2009 to be US$ 200 million, when seven in ten of his subjects have to exist in abject poverty, earning less than US1 a day.
Once those reports appear in the paper we can believe the Observer is independent. Until then we should continue to see it merely as a propaganda sheet for the king.