Police spies have infiltrated journalism newsrooms in Swaziland, the kingdom’s premier media watchdog has reported.
This has led to a heightened climate of fear, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Swaziland chapter said.
MISA said, ‘Newsrooms in the print media are no longer a safe haven for journalists following their infiltration by spies.’
In its annual report on media freedom in Swaziland called So This is Democracy? MISA said, ‘In August 2012, police interrogated one of the reporters at one of the media houses after common and casual newsroom talk with colleagues.
‘According to a complaint lodged by the Swaziland Diaspora Platform (SDP) with the MISA Swaziland chapter, a journalist who was spying reported him to the police and on others in the newsroom.
‘Journalists have begun to tread cautiously and carefully in the wake of police informants in the media houses. This heightened climate of fear perpetuates the already endemic self-censorship, which in turn bodes further ill for media freedom.
There are only two main newspaper groups in Swaziland. MISA called one group, the Swazi Observer, ‘a pure propaganda machine for the royal family’.
MISA said the other group, the Times of Swaziland, had ‘allowed commercial interests to take precedence over editorial independence’.
Freedom House, the global democracy watchdog, categorised Swaziland as ‘not free’ in a report issued earlier this year. King Mswati III, rules the kingdom as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
PRESS FREEDOM AND THE NATION
NO PRESS FREEDOM AT ‘OBSERVER’