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Wednesday, 6 August 2014

SWAZI ‘NATION’ VOWS TO FIGHT ON

The Nation magazine in Swaziland, whose editor has been jailed for two years for publishing articles critical of the judiciary, has vowed to continue with its campaign for freedom in the kingdom. 

Meanwhile, a fighting fund has been launched to raise the E100,000 (US$10,000) the magazine was fined and other legal costs. The magazine intends to appeal the decision in the Swazi Supreme Court sitting in November 2014.

Bheki Makhubu, the magazine’s editor, and Thulani Maseko, a human rights lawyer and writer, were jailed for two years after a Swazi High Court judge found them guilty of contempt of court.

The monthly magazine is considered by observers to be one of the few independent voices in the kingdom which is ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch. In an editorial in its August 2014 edition it said it refused to ‘toe the line’.

The magazine which only has a print run of 3,000 copies said, ‘The two-year jail term imposed on our editor, Bheki Makhubu, and columnist, Thulani Maseko, will not deter the management and staff of this magazine from doing what it considers best for our country. The right to freedom of expression and the media is one that we will continue to pursue – whether it is interpreted as absolute action or not. 

‘We might be a small publication with very limited resources but the recent case against The Nation has shown that we are not to be taken lightly by those in power. For the state to commit so much resources over four months, in its endeavour to deal with two commoners whose crime were just words on paper, is an indication that The Nation might be small in its operation but big on impact to those opposed to hearing what others think.’

The magazine said that while Makhubu and Maseko languished in jail, ‘our staff will continue with the good work. Although a difficult period for the staff and the duo’s families, we are consoled by the fact that they remain resolute and still refuse to toe a line visible only to the powerful.’

The jailing of the journalists has caused an outcry across the world, with criticism coming from the United States, the European Union and a number of prodemocracy groups. The pair have been a regular topic of debate at the United States Africa Summit that has been taking place this week.

Meanwhile, a ‘Friends of the Nation’ fighting fund has been launched by the magazine to raise money to pay its fine and other legal costs.

In a statement, the magazine said, ‘For generous people who would like to contribute towards the legal assistance for The Nation contempt of court case, the publisher has set up the Friends of The Nation Fund. Deposits can now be made to First National Bank of Swaziland, Account Number: 62024928155. Branch Code: 280164. Swift Code: FIRNSZMX.’ 

In a statement, the Media Institute of Southern Africa said, ‘The Nation magazine is one of Swaziland’s few sources of independent news and opinion. By sticking to its mandate of “speaking truth to power” it is no stranger to the courts. For many years, the small but reliable publication has been outspoken in supporting Swaziland’s shift to a more open and tolerant country that respects its own constitution.’

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