Nearly one in three people surveyed in Swaziland said they got their news from the Internet at least ‘a few times a week’.
One in three also said they used social media for news during the same period.
The figures were released on Tuesday (3 May 2016) by Afrobarometer as part of a World Press Freedom Day report.
Afrobarometer surveyed 36 countries across Africa.
It reported that 32 percent of those surveyed in Swaziland said they used the Internet for news, ‘a few times a week’ or ‘every day’.
It also reported that 33 percent of those surveyed in Swaziland got their news from ‘social media such as Facebook and Twitter’ a few times a week or every day.
Swaziland’s mainstream media are heavily censored. All radio, except one Christian station, is directly controlled by the Swazi Government. One of the kingdom’s two television stations is also under government control.
King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Sahara Africa’s last absolute monarch. He in effect owns the Swazi Observer which is one of only two daily newspapers in the kingdom. He also in effect owns two of the four newspapers that publish at weekends.
Critics of King Mswati’s government have taken to social media in recent years as part of their campaign for multi-party democracy in the kingdom.
Afrobarometer, commenting on the trend for social media use across Africa, reported, ‘Distinct demographic patterns are evident in media use by different groups. In general men, urbanites, youth and the better educated obtain news from all sources more than women, rural dwellers, older people, and the less educated.’
Afrobarometer is a research network that conducts public attitude surveys across Africa on democracy, governance, economic conditions and related matters.
In 2014, a report jointly published by the Media Institute of Southern Africa and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) found young people in Swaziland were turning to social media sites such as Facebook because it allowed them to enjoy ‘the fundamental rights to freedom of expression’ that was denied to them elsewhere in the kingdom.
They also bypassed mainstream media such as television, radio and newspapers in favour of social media. The report called Youth Usage of Social media in Swaziland concluded, ‘The young people have welcomed the emergence of the social media because, among others, it affords them an opportunity not only to inter-act but also enjoy the fundamental right to freedom of expression provided in Section 24 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland adopted in 2005.
The report added, ‘They can now easily and freely bypass the severely censored mainstream media to access, produce, distribute and exchange information and ideas.
‘More importantly, the social media has afforded the young people an opportunity to speak in their own voices, not mediated by the mainstream media.’
INCREASE IN SUPPORT FOR FREE PRESS
FACEBOOK BYPASSES CENSORED MEDIA
SOCIAL MEDIA FIRST WITH THE NEWS
SOCIAL MEDIA SITES PROMOTE FREEDOM