The United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office presented a special case study of Swaziland in its annual Human Rights andDemocracy report published this week.
It was a damning indictment of the human rights situation in Swaziland and made critical references to King Mswati III and the power he yields in his kingdom.
But, its contents were misrepresented in an articlepublished by the Weekend Observer newspaper in Swaziland on Saturday (20 April 2013).
Alec Lushaba, the Weekend Observer editor, who wrote the article, left out all references to King Mswati.
Lushaba, in addition to being the Weekend Observer editor, is chair of the Swaziland chapter of the press freedom advocacy group Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA).
First among the omissions he made from the UK report was that it labelled the king and his family, ‘sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarchy’.
It also went on to describe why Swaziland cannot be considered a democracy.
This is what the report said and the Weekend Observer in Swaziland left out.
‘Although Swaziland has a parliament, with elections due in 2013, there is no effective democracy. The King has the power summarily to appoint and dismiss ministers, all parliamentary candidates require the approval of their chief (who is dependent on the monarch for wealth and power) and while political parties are not forbidden, they are banned from participating in elections. All candidates must run as independents.’
Lushaba also missed out most of this section, ‘Swaziland continues to suffer from a range of governance problems which adversely impact human rights and inhibit the country’s social and economic development and its ability to attract much-needed foreign investment.
‘The judicial system has suffered repeated crises; the Suppression of Terrorism Act has been used to prevent legitimate expression of political views; peaceful protests have been disrupted and in some cases excessive force used against protesters.
‘The absence of clearly documented land rights has prevented small farmers from developing their land. Efforts to amend Swaziland’s laws to prevent domestic violence and to improve the legal status of women have made little progress.’
There are elections due in Swaziland this year that many democrats in the kingdom and much of the international diplomatic community consider bogus. They say political parties are banned from taking part and the parliament that will be selected has no powers and simply does the bidding of the king. They have called for a boycott of the election.
However, the Weekend Observer did report in a separate article that King Mswati in a speech to mark his 45th birthday, ‘urged all those planning to boycott the forthcoming national elections not to be afraid’.
The Weekend Observer, which is in effect owned by the king, quoted him saying, ‘I urge the whole nation to take part in the forthcoming national elections. This is the time for your voice to be heard in the decision making process of the country.’
In January 2011, writing in his own newspaper, Lushabasaid the Weekend Observer would report, ‘without fear or favour all news of public interest’.
He went on to say, ‘We are just a newspaper that serves the nation.’
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