The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, says the High Court’s decision to fine (and probably send to jail) Bheki Makhubu, the editor of the Nation magazine, is an attempt to stop people voicing concerns about problems in the kingdom.
In an editorial comment, the Times said, ‘[T]he decision to fine the editor of the Nation magazine E400 000 (or be jailed) can only be interpreted as an attempt to put a lid on complaints; to restrict the confidence of the Swazi people to speak up when they see a problem so that, together, we can fix it.’
Makhubu must pay a fine of E200,000 (US$22,000) by tomorrow (23 April 2013) and if he cannot pay he will be sent to jail for two years. Last week, the Swazi High Court convicted him of ‘scandalising’ the courts after he wrote two articles published in the Nation that criticised the judiciary.
The sentence has brought condemnation from across the world where it is being widely interpreted as an assault on freedom of the press. It has also drawn attention to the lack of human rights in Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
In its editorial published today, the Times said, ‘Shooting the messenger is the best way to ensure that problems are never reported; thus remaining unresolved.’
It added, ‘It is no secret that we are in the midst of a judicial crisis and have been for over two years. The crux of the matter is simply the question of whether or not the people of Swaziland trust their Judiciary to do right by them.
‘The significance of Bheki Makhubu’s sentence is that it is now abundantly clear that those responsible for maintaining the reputation of the Judiciary will not entertain this question any longer.
‘Instead, they will impose their own interpretation of the situation; that everything is fine, normal even.
‘But everything is not normal and it is far from fine.’
EDITOR: ‘SUN SETS ON MEDIA FREEDOM’
FUND SET UP IN BID TO PAY EDITOR’S FINE
NOT FIRST ATTACK ON ‘NATION’ EDITOR
EDITOR’S SENTENCE ‘UNCONSTITUTIONAL’
EDITOR FACING JAIL TO APPEAL SENTENCE
VOICES SUPPORTING BELEAGUERED EDITOR
A TALE OF TWO SWAZI EDITORS
PUDEMO CONDEMNS EDITOR’S CONVICTION
ARTICLES THAT MIGHT GET EDITOR JAILED
SOUTH AFRICA EDITORS BACK MAKHUBU
HIGH COURT SUPPRESSES MEDIA FREEDOM
MISA: EDITOR’S CONVICTION ‘BRUTAL’
EDITOR’S CONTEMPT SENTENCE ‘SHOCKING’
EDITOR SET FOR TWO YEARS IN JAIL