The Swaziland Government has banned state media from covering demonstrations and strikes currently taking place in the kingdom.
The Swazi Government also censored the BBC Focus on Africa programme that is broadcast daily on SBIS in the mornings, mid-day and evenings, after it contained items critical of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and the government he hand-picks.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) – the prominent media freedom organisation in the region – reports that the state radio SBIS has not been reporting on the strikes, which include a massive protest from nurses this week who were not paid their allowances by government.
MISA reports Members of Parliament confronted Nelisiwe Shongwe, the Minister for Information Communications and Technology (ICT), for answers. The Minister conceded in Parliament that the programme has been temporarily suspended. She said the government has taken a decision to censor the programme and said it would be back on air soon.
MPs did not take kindly to the government’s move and warned that it was dangerous as it was infringing on people’s right to access information. One of the MPs, Robert Magongo, said what the government has done has the potential to spark a riot among the people.
MISA reports that Magongo was quoted in the media to have said, ‘If I were a Minister I would never take orders from anyone because that would negatively portray me in the eyes of the people I am serving. I would rather resign than have someone dictate to me.’
‘The government has not only banned the BBC programme but has also banned all state media from covering demonstrations and strikes currently taking place in the country. Parliament has also cautioned the government against this move.
‘MISA, therefore, strongly urges the government to restore the BBC programme to be aired uncensored and to stop interfering in media content.
‘MISA further commends the MPs for questioning the government about this and cautioning against it. MISA cannot agree more with the MPs that the government's move is not only dangerous but also infringes upon people’s right to know. The government cannot prescribe what people should listen and not listen to. People have the right to choose what is good for them without being dictated to by the state.’