Times of Swaziland
14 April 2011
MISA condemns assault of protesters
MBABANE- The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has condemned the assault of protesters and detention of journalists dur-ing Tuesday’s demonstration.
MISA’s Regional Secretariat and its local Chapter issued a joint statement yesterday condemning the harassment of journalists and violent scenes that erupted during the protest.
The statement is signed by MISA Regional Director, Kaitira Kandjii, and Swaziland National Director, Comfort Mabuza.
"It outrightly condemns the reported arrest and assault of pro-democracy activists, including journalists, in Swaziland during the first day of protests to demand political reform in the country."
The institute said it had learnt from news reports that police not only attacked protesters and detained union leaders but also harassed reporters even stripping them of their equipment.
Furthermore, it said it is aware of the full extent of the police’s assault tactics on protesters, including firing tear gas and using water cannons, and that they "further confiscated equipment of journalists".
"MISA’s Regional Secretariat and its chapter in Swaziland have confirmed the arrest of dozens of activists in Manzini which is the centre of the demonstrations that were called to mark the 38th anniversary of the banning of political parties. MISA Swaziland also confirmed reports of assault, brief detention and confiscation of equipment of local and international journalists. MISA Swaziland is also in the process of confirming news reports of alleged arrests of some journalists," it stated.
Following what culminated during the march MISA has called upon government to respect the public’s right to stage "peaceful protests".
MISA put it to government that is has developed a track record of silencing dissidents justifiably seeking democracy.
This, it said will in no way deter pro-democracy activists.
"MISA and its members throughout Southern Africa believe that the people of Swaziland have the right to freedom of organisation and expression, and that the right to peaceful protest should be upheld. We express our solidarity and support to the activists and journalists in Swaziland to claim their basic human rights to self-expression and association as they seek to create an equitable and just society," said MISA.
It added that deprivation of such rights amounts to "a gross violation of the ILO Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work" and "infringement of Article 25 of the Swazi Constitution".