Search This Blog

For more coverage follow us also on Twitter and Facebook


Saturday, 20 April 2013

NOT FIRST ATTACK ON ‘NATION’ EDITOR



Swaziland has been plunged into its worst media freedom crisis in more than a decade by the High Court ruling that could see Bheki Makhubu, the editor of the Nation magazine, jailed for two years.

But, this is not the first assault by the Swazi state on both Makhubu and the Nation magazine.

The magazine’s publishing company Swaziland Independent Publishing and its editor face fines totalling E200,000 (US$22,000) for ‘scandalising’ the court. There are doubts that the small-circulation Nation can raise the money by a deadline of 23 April 2013 set by the court.

If it cannot, Makhubu will immediately be sent to jail for two years and the monthly magazine will almost certainly have to close.

The last massive attack (there are many smaller ones nearly every week of the year) on free speech in Swaziland, a kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, also targeted the Nation magazine and Makhubu.

In May 2001 Swaziland police raided offices of the Nation (ironically, considering the present situation) in defiance of the kingdom’s High Court. The Nation, which had been banned by the government earlier that month, because it had not been properly registered as a newspaper, had received the court’s approval to return to publishing.

The news agency Afrol reported at the time, ‘The uniformed policemen insisted that the outspoken magazine was still technically banned and said they had instructions to confiscate all copies of its June edition. Policemen also reportedly confiscated over 5,000 copies of the publication from street vendors in the capital Mbabane and other major centres such as Manzini and Piggs Peak.’

Afrol added, ‘The Nation is one of two independent publications banned by Swaziland Public Service and Information Minister Mtonzima Dlamini on World Press Freedom Day on May 3 [2001] in an apparent clampdown on journalists critical of the kingdom’s monarchist system of government.

‘Dlamini banned the Nation and weekly newspaper Swazi Guardian in an extraordinary gazette, citing Section 3 of the Proscribed Publications Act of 1968, which gives his office unlimited powers to ban or suspend publications that do not conform with “Swazi morality and ideals”.’

Afrol reported, ‘Both the Guardian and the Nation are known to support the multi-party democracy movement and have both been critical of King Mswati III’s decision to govern by decree. All political parties have been banned in Swaziland since the suspension of the kingdom's constitution in 1973.’

In a later report Afrol gave more details of the manner in which the banning was implemented.

‘The initial banning, published in Extraordinary Government Gazette 63, sparked police blockades and raids against retail outlets selling the publications,’ Afrol reported.

Nation editor Bheki Makhubu confirmed that uniformed policemen raided his offices on Tuesday evening and attempted to confiscate all copies of the magazine’s June edition. Police also reportedly harassed magazine vendors and retailers in Mbabane and the commercial city of Manzini, before confiscating early copies of the magazine.’

The banning saw police impound the Guardian as its delivery trucks crossed into Swaziland from its printers in South Africa.

Afrol said the Guardian ceased publication of its weekly newspaper, but the Nation continued publishing.

In an earlier report Afrol told how police had arrested the Guardian’s editor, Thulani Mthethwa, and drove him to police headquarters in Mbabane where he was interrogated at length over stories in his newspaper about activities in King Mswati III's palace. He was released after several hours.

The Guardian had reported on King Mswati III’s health, as well as on rumours that he was poisoned by his first wife. The Guardian had earlier published a photograph of the queen crying at the Matsapha airport as she prepared to board a plane for London, allegedly because King Mswati III had expelled her from the royal palace.

The claims were that Queen Mngomezulu was ‘driven to the Lozitha Palace and questioned about her role in the suspected food poisoning’ of King Mswati III. Palace insiders had said ‘that Mswati complained of stomach cramps immediately after eating a special breakfast prepared by Mngomezulu’.

Afrol went on to report that senior journalists at both publications had previously been detained and questioned by police, who demanded that they reveal their sources on reports critical of the kingdom’s ban on free political activity.


See also

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

No comments: