Swaziland’s only independent comment magazine has been banned from a jail in the kingdom because it is ‘political’, while the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati is allowed.
The Nation magazine, which is currently at the centre of a High Court case involving freedom of the media, is banned at Zakhele Remand Centre, where a number of pro-democracy activists are in jail awaiting trial.
The ban came to light after visitors to the remand centre took a copy of the magazine and copies of Swaziland’s only two daily newspapers, the Times of Swaziland and the Swazi Observer to give to members of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) and the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) who are incarcerated awaiting trial.
The Observer is a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Media in Swaziland are heavily censored with nearly all radio and television controlled by the state. The Nation is considered to be the only truly independent journalism in the kingdom. Its editor Bheki Makhubu and a writer Thulani Maseko are presently in court on contempt charges after writing and publishing articles critical of the Swazi judiciary.
The Times of Swaziland reported that correctional officers refused to allow the Nation to be handed to inmates because it ‘was political and as such was not allowed into the facility’.
The newspaper reported that Correctional Services Public Relations Officer (PRO) Bongani Khumalo confirmed the fact that the magazine was not allowed into the remand centre.
The newspaper reported Khumalo saying, ‘The officer in charge at Zakhele used his discretion not to allow the magazine into the facility as it would not only be read by the two men but by all the other men they share a cell with.’
He denied that the magazine was branded as political, stating that officers did not know what constituted political reading material.