The Swaziland Government lives in a world of its own if it thinks the state-run news agency to be launched soon will improve the image of the kingdom abroad.
The Swazi Parliament adopted a report on the setting up of the Swaziland News Agency (SWANA) which Information, Communication and Technology Minister Nelisiwe Shongwe said, ‘would report accurately about news in Swaziland that would want to be accessed in particular by foreigners’.
She said the kingdom’s leaders had complained about what was reported in foreign countries about Swaziland and SWANA would assist in giving out ‘proper information’.
What she meant, of course, was that the foreign media would publish propaganda on behalf of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and his government led by Barnabas Dlamini, the illegally-appointed Prime Minister.
And she expects the foreign media to pay a fee for the privilege of receiving lies from them.
The rulers in Swaziland have had it too good for years from the media in the kingdom. The state controls the news on all radio and one of the two TV stations that operate. The other TV station and the ‘independent’ newspapers never criticise the king and censor themselves over sensitive stories. There is a tiny alternative media in the kingdom – the Nation magazine is the most well known – but these cannot compete against the government lies.
When it comes to the international media, the government has no control. The idea behind SWANA is that media will take ‘news’ from the agency and just reprint it (or broadcast it) as it comes.
It shows that Swazi politicians have no idea what free media do. Do they really think that an international broadcaster such as the BBC or CNN is going to uncritically report that (to take a current example) hunger and poverty in Swaziland is improving, just because the government says it is so? They will do what all good journalists do and investigate to find out the facts.
And Swazi rulers can’t escape the facts: Swaziland is not a democracy and it is controlled by people from King Mswati down who put their own interest before the majority of people. That’s the ‘story’ from Swaziland and it will continue to be told whatever ‘news’ SWANA puts out.