The Swaziland Government has scored another own goal in its attempt to be seen by the international community as a responsible nation worthy of First World status.
As I reported last week, the government has blocked the website of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO). This is the first time the Swazi regime, led by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has censored the Internet, although it controls most of the media in the kingdom itself.
The story of the Swazi Government’s crass action to ban free speech has now gone global as this report from the international news agency AFP demonstrates.
Swaziland opposition says website blocked by government
JOHANNESBURG — A banned Swaziland opposition party on Tuesday said the government had blocked access to its website, which had been hosting a poll on whether the kingdom should hold multi-party elections.
The People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) said the government of the small southern African monarchy had "made good on its promise to censor cyberspace" by blocking access to its site, pudemo.org.
"What is clear... is that the Swazi regime is intent on extending its censorship policy into cyberspace," PUDEMO said in a statement.
"Due to the fact that the website is not hosted within the country, it is still accessible everywhere outside the country," it added.
Political organisations have been banned by law since 1973 in Swaziland, which is known for the lavish lifestyles of 42-year-old King Mswati III and his 13 wives.
PUDEMO's website last month launched a poll on whether the country should hold multi-party elections to choose the members of its House of Assembly.
Fifty-seven percent of the 831 people who voted in the online poll said they preferred multi-party elections to the current tinkhundla electoral system, based on constituent chiefdoms and seen as tightly controlled by the king.
"It is not clear whether the new results of the poll are related to the blocking of the website or not," PUDEMO said.
Swaziland's government is known for cracking down on political activists and pro-democracy campaigners.
Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini, a hardline royalist, said in September his government would consider punishing political dissidents by beating their feet with spikes.
See also these posts from Swazi Media Commentary.