The Swazi Observer newspaper misled its readers when its reported that the Swaziland police had ok’d an LGBTI event in the kingdom.
The misreporting led to confusion and the police making a forceful statement in clarification.
Police blamed the Rock of Hope which is organising the event for the error.
Rock of Hope in a statement said, ‘We did not say or intend to imply that the police have endorsed Rock of Hope or the upcoming lesbian, gay, bisexual and intersex (LGBTI) Pride event.’ It added, ‘They are not associated with our organisation and neither did they sanction our intended event.’
The problem started when the Observer’s Saturday edition (23 June 2018) published a story with the headline ‘Police ok gay march’. However nowhere in the story did the newspaper give evidence to support the headline. It did not quote the police nor Rock of Hope saying police had given support.
This led to confusion and the Hhohho Regional Police Commissioner Charles Tsabedze wrote a strong letter to Rock of Hope. He called Rock of Hope dishonest and said it ‘gave the impression that we gave authority that the event should go ahead’.
Tsabedze said police had agreed to provide security and traffic control. He added, ‘We wish to categorically point out that we are not associated with your organisation and neither did we sanction your intended event.’
He did not mention the misreporting of the police’s position by the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
LGBTI Pride organiser Melusi Simelane told the Daily Beast the police had been ‘incredibly welcoming, supportive, and professional’.
The Beast reported, ‘He added, “up until a media report saying they had ‘OK’d’ the event. Then somewhere within the police leadership there was alarm, and we were called into a meeting to be told that the police can’t be seen to support anything at all, that all they would do was provide security as for any other event. Really, they’ve been great.’
The Beast reported police told Simelane they were receiving ‘a lot of threats’ from people wanting to attack Pride marchers.
The Pride which takes place on Saturday 30 June 2018 is the first LGBTI event of its kind in Swaziland. The Observer has over the past week published three articles demonising LGBTI people likening them to child sex monsters and people who have sex with animals.
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