Sunday, September 9, 2018

Two More Human Rights Groups Condemn Swaziland Police Attack on Journalist

Two more human rights groups have joined a growing chorus of condemnation of Swaziland after a journalist was attacked by police when he photographed them during a workers’ protest in which they fired guns.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) chapter in Swaziland (recently renamed Eswatini by the kingdom’s absolute monarch King Mswati III) said it saw an ‘increasingly worrying development’ with state forces attacking journalists.

MISA was commenting on the case of Times of Swaziland journalist Andile Nsibande who was attacked by police officers and prison warders on 30 August 2018 at Nhlangano where workers protested about low levels of pay.

‘They demanded that he should delete the pictures he had taken, and then proceeded to beat him up,’’ MISA reported.

It stated, ‘The law enforcement agents ought to know that journalists play a public service of disseminating information that emaSwati [Swazi people] need desperately to make informed decisions and choices. 

It added, ‘Whosoever attacks journalists in line of duty, stands accused of violating emaSwati’s constitutional right to information.’

MISA said it was concerned, ‘such acts are happening during the process of national elections when emaSwati expect the media practitioners to execute their duties without fear. Such attacks are bound to instil fear in the media practitioners.’

Separately, the Panos Institute Southern Africa said the state attacks on journalists were unconstitutional. In a statement it said, ‘Journalism is not a crime, but is a freedom that must be cherished and protected by all who are concerned about the region’s development. Any attack on press freedom is a blow on the implementation of poverty eradication interventions, as the media is a strategic ally in the roll-out of national development programmes. 

‘We appeal to the authorities at the Kingdom of Eswatini to urgently put in place measures to protect journalists from unscrupulous government officials and security agents.’

The fresh calls came after MISA Zimbabwe chapter appealed to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to look into the continued state-sponsored violations against journalists.

It added, ‘It is high time the regional body condemned the continued use of state security agents to violate fundamental rights such as the right to free expression and the right to access information.

MISA Zimbabawe called the police attack, ‘an increasingly worrying development involving state security agents’. It added, ‘This attack is the latest in a series of state-sponsored attacks against journalists in the kingdom of Eswatini, as Swaziland is now called. On 7 February 2018, a photojournalist with the Swazi Observer was attacked after he took pictures of a convoy of overcrowded vehicles transporting prison wardens.’

It added, ‘Another photojournalist with the Sunday Observer was attacked on 13 July 2018 after he took pictures of government vehicles parked outside a deputy prime minister’s office. Police forced the photojournalist to delete pictures he had taken.’

See also

Swaziland Police Beat-Up Journalist Photographing Them Attacking, Shooting At Textile Workers

Media Freedom Group Calls On SADC To Investigate Swaziland For ‘State-Sponsored’ Attacks On Journalists

‘Editor Flees After Death Threat’

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