Journalists from two of Swaziland’s newspapers were attacked and assaulted by prison warders in what is being described as one of the worst incidents of violence against journalists in the kingdom.
Four journalists from the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, and the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, were ‘attacked and assaulted by a battalion of Correctional Services warder recruits as they covered a political demonstration,’ according to the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA).
MISA reports the journalists ‘were not only assaulted but also had their cameras taken and destroyed in one of the worst incidents of violence against journalists in Swaziland’.
MISA cites a report in the Observer newspaper that said a battalion of about 200 warder recruits pounced on the journalists, assaulted them, pulled a female journalist by the hair and confiscated the cameras. The officers then tried to delete the photos from the cameras and when they failed they then destroyed the expensive gadgets.
This was during a political demonstration in which members of the banned Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) celebrated the acquittal of their President, Mario Masuku, who had earlier on in the day appeared in the High Court on charges of terrorism.
During the incident, PUDEMO activists were also heavily assaulted by the warders and the President of SWAYOCO, the party’s youth wing, Wandile Dludlu was severely assaulted and had to be admitted in hospital.
The MISA Swaziland chapter has condemned the attack and assault of the journalists and has called on authorities to investigate the matter with a view of taking action against the offending officers.
‘Attacking and assaulting journalists is not only a criminal offence but is also serious media violation that constitutes an attack on press freedom,’ MISA said in a statement.