Monday, May 9, 2011


Weekend Observer

7 May 2011


Observers wonder if [Swazi] media has lost its grip

Has the media in Swaziland already lost its grip? This question was brought to the fore on Tuesday during the World Press Freedom Day celebrations amidst growing concerns that the traditional Swazi media is no longer playing its watchdog function.

On the commemoration of [World] Press Freedom Day at the Mountain Inn, different speakers strongly criticised local traditional media for failing to question government enough, but opting to enforce the state’s agenda instead. Independent media houses were also put under the spotlight for apparently being in bed with government of late.

A Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland Chapter researcher observed that one of the most prominent independent print media houses had seemingly allowed itself to be used by government. “The main problem with our local traditional media is that they do not question government agenda but are enforcing it. They write what government wants and other voices are ignored. During the April 12 march, the coverage of our local media on events that unfolded was shocking. All sorts of derogatory words like marchers are power-hungry, law breakers, lazy, terrorists, mercenaries were used, and no platform was given to the protesters to explain their case within the same publications,” she said.

The criticism against local journalists comes amidst growing concerns that members of the fourth estate are in a state of self-censorship and fear even writing about issues that no one ordered them not to write. University of Swaziland (UNISWA) lecturer Dr. Maxwell Mthembu dared say the media in Swaziland was shameful and disgraceful, adding that people were now losing confidence in traditional media, especially newspapers.

“Journalists are now scared to even write about ministers, the budget and corruption. This is a big problem for the country because the media is no longer playing its watchdog function. What are journalists, in all honesty, doing to uplift the standards of poor rural dwellers at Lavumisa, Lomahasha, for instance?” wondered a disappointed Dr. Mthembu.

In the same breath, the MISA Swaziland researcher said while journalists in newsrooms were seemingly losing their grip, but the emergence of social media was being received as a comfort by consumers who are yearning for more. She made an example of former University of Swaziland (UNISWA) lecturer Professor [Richard] Rooney, an active blogger and source of information.

Professor Rooney was heralded for being a source of information, and even publishing articles that local traditional media dares not touch. “If you are not reading the story you are longing for in local newspapers, then simply go to Professor Rooney’s Swazi Media Commentary where it is told as it is”.

The Nation Magazine was found to be the only publication to be critical of government.

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