The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, has for the second day running censored itself in its reporting of King Mswati III.
Today (9 May 2012), the Times reports on a Gallup poll that asked Swazi people whether they approved of the King’s leadership.
According to the newspaper, the King ‘received a majority vote from the Swazi people’.
Today’s publication follows a report in the Times yesterday that the Swazi Government had received only 40 percent of Swazi approval in the same Gallup poll. The Times made no reference to the King’s poll rating in that report.
The Times was criticised yesterday by Swazi Media Commentary for censoring itself by not reporting the poll result for King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
Today, the Times responded with its report on the King’s rating.
But, although the report says the King received a ‘majority vote’ of his people, it does not give the figures.
That is because the King received only 56 percent approval – another 43 percent of the Swazis interviewed by Gallup disapproved of the King’s leadership.
The real story is not the number who approve of the King, but the 43 percent who disapprove.
In Swaziland, the mainstream media do not allow any criticism of the King. Instead they are likely to play up the importance of the King and report that his subjects unreservedly love him.
Also, the King has strict control over his subjects’ lives, especially the 75 percent who live in rural areas. Chiefs of areas are the King’s representative and they can decide who is able to live and work in the area. If you criticise the King, you upset the chief, and you can be sent into exile.
This means that when people have criticisms of the King, they keep them to themselves.
So, the fact that more than four in ten people are prepared to tell a Gallup pollster they disapprove of the King’s leadership is a significant development and might encourage others who have been too scared to voice their objection.
The Times newspaper knows this and that’s why it censored itself in the report.
‘TIMES’ CENSORS SELF ON KING’S POLL
POLL SHOWS DISAPPROVAL OF SWAZI KING
MEDIA FREEDOM AMONG GLOBAL WORSE