Swazi Media Commentary, the social media site about human rights in Swaziland, has received its one-millionth hit.
It is one of the longest running social media sites concentrating on the struggle for democracy in Swaziland.
The one million visits are to the Swazi Media Commentary main blogsites. An additional uncountable number of people have also accessed the site’s material on two Facebook pages and a Twitter feed. A separate site also exists with information and commentary about the Swazi elections that took place in 2008.
The news aggregator All Africa dot com also distributes most of the site’s output to websites across the word.
Items from Swazi Media Commentary are also contained in the weekly newsletter on human rights in Swaziland that is sent by email free-of-charge to subscribers by Africa Contact.
Annual, quarterly and monthly compilations of items from the Swazi Media Commentary site are also gathered together and are available free-of-charge on a Scribd account.
The website is compiled entirely by volunteers and receives no financial backing.
One of its strengths, according to Richard Rooney, who set up the site when he was Head of the Journalism and Mass Communication Department at the University of Swaziland in 2007, is that it has no base and exists entirely in Cyberspace. This means that the authorities in Swaziland, where mainstream media are heavily censored and two journalists are in jail for writing articles critical of the kingdom’s judiciary, are powerless to stop it.
The site can be updated from anywhere in the world.
In April 2011 prodemocracy campaigners failed in an ‘uprising’ to unseat King Mswati III, who rules the kingdom as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Rooney said, ‘I spent the day of the uprising in a settlement called Karaoglanoglu, which is hardly a dot on the map of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, at the other end of the world from Swaziland.
‘Equipped with only a laptop and an Internet dongle I was able to receive information from people on the ground, process it and have it on the website within minutes. That day Swazi Media Commentary was being read by journalists and activists across the world, all anxious to find the latest news on the uprising.’
Swazi Media Commentary started as a website containing articles about local media for journalism students in Swaziland - hence its name. But, Rooney said, after he wrote about a strike by textile workers in Swaziland it became clear that people with no connection to the university were reading the site.
Gradually, the website expanded its interest to include all human rights in Swaziland.
Today, there are more than 3,600 items on the website dating back to 2007. SMC is used as a resource by journalists, researchers, students and activists from across the world, as well as within Swaziland itself. A large proportion of readers are in the United States and Europe, but there are also regular visitors from across Asia and the Middle East.
‘It puzzles me sometimes who these people are and I wonder why somebody in, say, Slovenia would be interested in reading about the maltreatment of Swazi children or King Mswati’s latest spending spree,’ Rooney said.
‘But, they are and the fact that there are people all over the world who want to see democracy come to Swaziland, should encourage campaigners to keep up the fight.’
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