A brother of Swazi King Mswati III is suing the Times of Swaziland for alleged defamation.
Prince Guduza, who is also Speaker of the House of Assembly, wants the newspaper to pay him E2 million (about 285,000 US Dollars) for articles it published about his involvement with a company that allegedly illegally imported cigarettes worth E17 million into Swaziland.
The move is not entirely unexpected since in Swaziland people in powerful positions, including Parliamentarians, often sue the independent media in order to try to intimidate them into silence. Often, after the initial threat, no court case actually takes place. However, the threat of action is often enough to quieten troublesome journalists.
The Nation magazine, an independent monthly comment journal, is currently in court battling a lawsuit by a government official who is suing the magazine for alleged defamation. The official had recently won damages after the Nation failed to appear in court to defend the case. But the Nation later won an order for stay of execution and the case is yet to be argued in court.
In 2007, the Times had one lawsuit from the Minister of Education dismissed by the High Court on a technicality only to be sued by the Minister of Health and Social Welfare over an article about HIV AIDS.
In the same year, the Swazi Observer was sued by an MP over a report of an alleged assault.
What is common to all the defamation cases is the unrealistically high damages that are claimed.
In a media release on Tuesday (18 March 2008) the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) states that lawyers for Prince Guduza claim that publication of articles in the Times ‘set the tone for further articles and commentaries in the newspaper in which our client was accused of being a liar, unfit to be Speaker of Parliament, abusing his position as Speaker, abuse of power in general and being corrupt and engaging in a generally corrupt relationship with the police.’
For further information on a previous lawsuit against the Times click here
For further information on the Nation case, click here
ONE LAW FOR THE SWAZI PRINCE