Swaziland’s state radio SBIS was banned by the Swazi Government from reporting the mass protest march in the kingdom on 18 March 2011.
About 8,000 people marched on the office of the prime minister to demand the resignation of the entire government.
Yesterday (1 April 2011), at a regular meeting between editors and Barnabas Dlamini, the kingdom’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister, SBIS News Editor Welile Dlamini said he had been forced to go from pillar to post asking for permission to cover the march, but did not get it.
The Swazi News, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, reported him saying, ‘The march happened right under our noses and we were told never to say anything about it. This does not augur well for a country that professes to support freedom of the media. It has come to a point that at SBIS we are now informed what to publish and what not.
‘There is a danger that the people will eventually lose interest in the station and one day government will desire that a certain issue is broadcast but very few listeners will take note of it,’ he said.
Barnabas Dlamini told editors, journalist had to abide by the policy of the station.
In what many would see as a not-so-veiled threat, the PM told Welile Dlamini it was not uncommon that editors resign from media companies if they felt that their convictions were against those of the media company.
Bheki Makhubu, Editor of the Nation, an anti-government monthly magazine, asked the PM if government was in the habit of pretending that things were not happening when in fact they were happening.
This is not the first example of blatant censorship at SBIS. Last month (March 2011), it stopped broadcasting the BBC World Service Focus on Africa programme after it carried reports critical of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
In the same month, SBIS failed to cover the march by nurses that forced the Swazi Government into paying them overdue allowances.
SBIS is not expected to report on the next major protest in Swaziland. An ‘uprising’ coordinated by a Facebook group is due to take place on 12 April.