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Wednesday, 14 March 2018

MPs BLOCK SWAZI STATE-RADIO FUNDS

Members of parliament in Swaziland have blocked funding to state-controlled radio because they say they are not being allowed on air.

One said the stations under the Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Services (SBIS) were being used for ‘character assassination’.

Nkwene MP Sikhumbuzo Dlamini told the House of Assembly SBIS had been used to assassinate his character as a member of parliament.

The Swazi Observer newspaper, which is itself in effect owned by King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported on Tuesday (13 March 2018), ‘He said the national radio station was used to tell people how he was evil and disrespectful. The message was sent to the people in a way to de-campaign him. He strongly blamed the editors at SBIS for disseminating news meant to humiliate him.’

During a debate, Nkhaba MP Menzi Dlamini wanted to know if it was still proper for the radio station to be referred to as a national radio station or should it be the ‘Cabinet radio station’.

The Observer reported, ‘He informed his colleagues how he was once denied access to the radio station when he wanted to air an announcement to inform Nkhaba people about an event they were supposed to attend.’

Maphalaleni MP Mabulala Maseko said as MPs they were pioneers of development and also coordinated development activities. So they were supposed to be given access to state media to talk about developmental issues in their constituencies. 

The MPs resolved that they would not release E2 million (US$170,000) to renovate the SBIS studios. 

All radio in Swaziland, except one Christian station that does not broadcast news, is state controlled. The largest of only two television stations in the kingdom is also state-controlled.  

There is a long history of censorship. In August 2014, Minister of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Dumisani Ndlangamandla said the Swaziland Government would not let up on its control of state radio,  He said state media existed primarily to serve the interests of the state.

In August 2012, the government announced that in advance of the national election in September 2013
radio would be banned from broadcasting news and information that did not support the government’s own agenda.

New guidelines also barred ‘public service announcements’ unless they were ‘in line with government policy’ or had been authorised ‘by the chiefs through the regional administrators’ or deputy prime minister’s office’.

The guidelines said the radio stations could not be ‘used for purposes of campaigning by individuals or groups, or to advance an agenda for political, financial popularity gains for individuals or groups’.

Strikes and anti-government demonstrations are usually ignored by broadcasters. Sometimes live radio programmes are censored on air. In July 2011, the plug was pulled on a phone-in programme when listeners started criticising the government for its handling of the economy. Percy Simelane, who was then the boss of SBIS, and went on to become the government’s official spokesperson, personally stormed the radio studio and cut the programme.  

In April 2011, Welile Dlamini, a long-time news editor at SBIS, challenged the Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini at an editors’ forum meeting on why the state radio station was told by the government what and what not to broadcast. Welile Dlamini said that at the station they were instructed not to use certain stories such as those about demonstrations by progressives and strike action by workers. The PM responded by saying editors should resign if they were not happy with the editorial policies they are expected to work with.

In March 2011, SBIS
stopped broadcasting the BBC World Service Focus on Africa programme after it carried reports critical of King Mswati. 

In 2010, Swazi police told SBIS it must stop allowing people to broadcast information about future meetings unless the police had given permission. Jerome Dlamini, Deputy Director of the SBIS said this was to stop the radio station airing an announcement for a meeting that was prohibited.

He said, ‘It’s the station’s policy not to make announcements without police permission.’ 

In 2006, the Minister for Public Service and Information, Themba Msibi, warned the Swazi broadcasters against criticising the King. MISA reported at the time, ‘The minister’s threats followed a live radio programme of news and current affairs in which a human rights lawyer criticised the King’s sweeping constitutional powers.’

Human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko, had been asked to comment on a visit by an African Union (AU) human rights team which was on a fact-finding mission to Swaziland.

‘In response, Maseko said that, as human rights activists, they had concerns about the King’s sweeping constitutional powers and the fact that he the King was wrongfully placed above the Constitution. He said they were going to bring this and other human rights violations to the attention of the AU delegation. 


‘Not pleased with the broadcast, the government was quick to respond. Msibi spoke on air the following day to sternly warn the media against criticising the King. He said the media should exercise respect and avoid issues that seek to question the King or his powers. 

‘The minister said his message was not directed only to radio but to all media, both private and government-owned. He said that in government they had noticed that there was growing trend in the media to criticise the King when he should be above criticism and public scrutiny,’ MISA reported.
Maseko, a long-time campaigner for human rights, was jailed for two years along with Nation Magazine editor Bheki Makhubu in July 2014 for writing articles critical of the Swazi judiciary.

See also

NO LET UP ON SWAZI MEDIA CENSORSHIP
BILL LETS KING CONTROL BROADCASTING
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2013/03/bill-lets-king-control-broadcasting.html

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