Swaziland is controlled by King Mswati III who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Broadcasting and newspapers in the kingdom are already heavily restricted. Political parties are not allowed to contest elections and those that advocate for democracy are in effect banned in Swaziland.
The Swaziland Broadcasting Bill was discussed by stakeholders at a workshop organised by the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology at the Royal Swazi Sun Convention Centre.
The Principal Secretary to the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology, Sikelela Dlamini, said the definition of what was meant by ‘political group’ would be included in the Bill, before it was tabled to parliament.
The move is not unexpected. At present, nearly all broadcasting in Swaziland is state controlled. Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Service (SBIS) oversees state radio stations. The only independent radio is Voice of the Church, a Christian station that does not carry news.
There are only two TV stations in the kingdom, the state-controlled Swazi TV and the independent Channel S, which has a publicly-stated policy of supporting King Mswati.
Most people in Swaziland get their news and information from radio. Newspapers hardly penetrate rural areas where more than 70 percent of the population lives and television is too expensive for most people.
Currently, broadcasters in Swaziland serve the interests of the ruling elites and not those of the people. No criticism is allowed on the airwaves of the status quo in Swaziland. Any criticism of the ruling elite is seen as ‘non-Swazi’. The Prime Minister of the day is editor-in-chief of the Swazi broadcasting and can decide what goes on the air and what does not.
There are only two daily newspapers in Swaziland, One, the Swazi Observer, is in effect owned by King Mswati. It was described by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) in a report on media freedom in the kingdom as, a ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’.
SWAZI BROADCASTING WILL NOT BE FREED