The Swaziland Government is censoring BBC broadcasts in the kingdom.
This is because last week the BBC broadcast two items that were broadly supportive of people fighting for democracy in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
Nelisiwe Shongwe, Minister of Information, Communication and Technology, said yesterday (8 March 2011) that the Focus on Africa Programme that is broadcast in its entirety on state-run radio, SBIS, would in future be ‘edited’ before broadcast.
The Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported her saying that as a Swazi nation, people should understand that there were some pieces of information that could not just be sent to the people. She said they had to consider the impact that information would have.
The Observer reported she said the programme was being ‘delayed by the editing process’.
The newspaper did not give details of the content of the programmes complained of.
They were two features by reporter Louise Redvers broadcast on separate days last week. The first talked to people who see the present economic meltdown in Swaziland as an opportunity to press for democratic change.
The second talked to people who said they were prepared to put their lives on the line to campaign for freedom in the kingdom. Redvers interviewed a student leader, a journalist and a human rights campaigner. They all knew that it is ‘suicidal’ to challenge the king – but nonetheless they are prepared to do so. As one interviewee said, the level of oppression keeps people quiet, but the rulers can’t keep the lid closed.
The censorship was criticised in the Swazi House of Assembly. MP Robert Magongo said that the government was acting dangerously.
He said what government was doing was the equivalent to lying to the people by wanting to only have the minister’s opinion broadcast.
The Observer reported he said such behavior by government had the potential to spark a riot among the people.
To hear the broadcasts click below.