One of Swaziland’s few independent newspapers the Times Sunday has made a concerted attack on ‘Asians’ in the kingdom, declaring them to be cheats and scoundrals.
It follows the decision of the Swazi House of Assembly to set up a committee to investigate illegal immigration into Swaziland and for the banning of entry permits to people from Asia.
The newspaper is breaking its own code of ethical conduct in reporting.
One of the anti-Asian cheerleaders is Innocent Maphalala, the editor of the Times Sunday. Writing in his own newspaper on Sunday (24 July 2016), he said there was an ‘influx’ of immigrants from Pakistan and India, but gave no statistics to support his comment.
I do not want to repeat much of Maphalala column as it would only spread his racist comments to a wider audience. However, he attacked Asian businesses as being cheats and he complained that shops were closed on Friday mornings, a time during the week when Muslims go to prayer.
Despite his fierce attacks he did not interview one Asian person for comment.
Maphalala’s comments break Article 6 of the Swaziland National Association of Journalists (SNAJ) Code of Conduct which says journalists must not ‘originate material which encourages discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, colour, creed, gender or sexual orientation’. He quoted nobody either in favour or against his proposition that Asians were cheats and is therefore responsible for originating the material.
Although it is important for SNAJ to have a code of conduct about racist reporting, unfortunately Article 6 lacks details and is not that useful for journalists who are trying to do the right thing.
This kind of racism is not confined to Swaziland. Journalists in other parts of the world have to confront racists and racist attitudes every day and have created their own codes of conduct.
One that is more detailed than that of SNAJ is from the National Union of Journalists in the UK.
Here is an extract from its guidelines that journalists in Swaziland might like to take note of.
Guidelines ratified by the National Union of Journalists (UK and Ireland) for all its members to follow when dealing with race relations subjects.
The NUJ believes that its members cannot avoid a measure of responsibility in fighting the evil of racism as expressed through the mass media.
The NUJ reaffirms its total opposition to censorship but equally reaffirms its belief that press freedom must be conditioned by responsibility and an acknowledgement by all media workers of the need not to allow press freedom to be abused to slander a section of the community or to promote the evil of racism.
The NUJ believes the methods and lies of the racists should be publicly and vigorously exposed.
The NUJ believes that newspapers and magazines should not originate material which encourages discrimination on grounds of race or colour, as expressed in the NUJ's rule book and code of conduct.
The NUJ believes that editors should ensure that coverage of race stories should be placed in a balanced context.
Only mention someone’s race if it is strictly relevant.
Do not sensationalise race relations issues.
Immigrant is often used as a term of abuse. Do not use it unless the person really is an immigrant.
Be wary of disinformation. Just because a source is traditional does not mean it is accurate.
When interviewing representatives of racist organisations or reporting meetings or statements or claims, journalists should carefully check all reports for accuracy and seek rebutting or opposing comments. The anti-social nature of such views should be exposed.
Do not allow the letters column or 'phone-in' programmes to be used to spread racial hatred in whatever guise.
PREJUDICE AGAINST MUSLIMS RIFE
ASIANS EVICTED FROM HOME
ALL ASIANS BANNED FROM SWAZILAND