The Chief Justice of Swaziland Michael Ramodibedi has threatened local media against scandalising courts, after a newspaper criticised him.
Ramodibedi and two other Swazi judges made a public statement after newspapers criticised Ramodibedi’s involvement in a High Court case involving a High Court Clerk, Sabatha Gumedze, who had resisted an attempt to transfer her to the Manzini Magistrates Court.
The statement from the CJ, jointly written with Justices Bheki Maphalala and Mumcy Dlamini, read ‘We must take this opportunity to warn the newspapers that scandalising the courts is an offence called contempt of court. In this matter the newspapers published a malicious story that the Chief Justice presided over a matter he dealt with prior to litigation.
‘That was completely false and those newspapers know it for a fact. It is for that reason that no application for recusal was made. Similarly, the so called law experts do a disservice to the nation by giving false legal opinions to newspapers. Genuine law experts make submissions in court.’
The threat to journalists of punishment for scandalising the court is a real one in Swaziland.
In April 2013 Bheki Makhubu, the editor of the Nation magazine, was convicted of ‘scandalising the court’ because he criticised the Swazi judiciary. He was fined E200,000 (US$22,000) by the High Court and told if he did not pay within three days he would immediately go to jail for two years.
His sentence is on hold pending an appeal to the Swaziland Supreme Court.
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