Swaziland’s Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs is threatening a clampdown on Facebook and Twitter users who say bad things about the kingdom.
Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze said he would use the law against people who criticise Swaziland on the Internet.
Most mainstream media in Swaziland, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, are state controlled. Censorship on state TV and radio is common and one of Swaziland’s two daily newspapers is in effect owned by King Mswati. There is only one independent newspaper group in the kingdom and this censors itself when reporting about the Swazi royal family.
A number of blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook sites have been created in recent years, many with the express purpose of furthering the campaign for democracy in Swaziland.
Many of them originate in the kingdom and others are based outside. They are the only freely-available source of news and comment critical of the king that is available inside Swaziland.
Chief Gamedze told the Swazi Senate that he would use what he called ‘international laws’ to bring the Internet critics to task. He was reacting to concerns from Senators that the Internet sites showed ‘disrespect’ to the king.
Chief Gamedze did not specify which laws he would use.
This is not the first time the Swazi Government has claimed it will attack Internet users. In May 2011 Nathaniel Mahluza, Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology, said the police had specially-trained officers to track down people who used Facebook to criticise the Swazi Government.
In March 2011, Barnabas Dlamini, the Swaziland Prime Minister, told Senators that his government would track down, arrest and prosecute Gangadza Masilela, a prominent Facebook activist.
Despite these threats, no arrests have been made.
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