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Wednesday, 12 February 2014

KING KEEPS TIGHT GRIP ON MEDIA

King Mswati III continues to keep a tight grip on news media and opposition voices in Swaziland, a report on journalism freedom in the kingdom just published reveals.

The King, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, ‘owned one of the two daily newspapers and employed the editor of the other as an adviser. Radio and television were also controlled by the state,’ the report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) stated.

‘Though Swazis readily accessed South African radio and television, South African newspapers entering Swaziland were carefully screened by authorities: If deemed critical of the king or government, all copies were purchased and destroyed,’ CPJ said.

‘Self-censorship prevailed in the kingdom, where political parties are banned and critical voices within civil society and the media were silenced through legal or professional repercussions.

‘Few dared challenge the government; the boards of state-owned companies such as the Swazi Observer Newspaper group kept their editors in check and, in turn, editors ensured that their reporters toed the line.’

The CPJ reported two editors, Alec Lushaba and Thulani Thwala, were reinstated in March 2013 after being suspended by their employer, the Swazi Observer , the newspaper owned by the King.

‘The editors were accused of “negative coverage” and failure to follow the company’s mandate, which includes “upholding the social and cultural values of the Swazi nation.” The king is seen as the embodiment of these values, CPJ reported.

Lushaba and Thwala had published critical stories about the king, including a June 2011 article about Swaziland's alleged attempts to secure a loan from South Africa, which was believed to cause embarrassment to the king, according to the managing director of Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, the royal entity that owns the Swazi Observer Newspaper group.

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