Friday, April 24, 2020

Swaziland journalist critical of absolute monarch, beaten, arrested, faces treason charge

Eugene Dube, a journalist critical of King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland (eSwatini), has been beaten by police, arrested and is facing a treason charge.

Dube who published an online newspaper called Swati Newsweek was arrested on Thursday (23 April 2020). The Swaziland News, another online newspaper that advocates for democracy in the kingdom, reported he ‘sustained head injuries after a battalion of armed police arrived at his home in Nhlangano’.

It said police were ‘seeking answers regarding critical articles he published about King Mswati’. It added Dube did not realise they were police because they were not in uniform and he tried to escape through a window.

Eugene Dube

The Swaziland News reported Dube was taken to Nhlangano Police Station and questioned about two articles headlined ‘King reckless on Swazis health’ and ‘Removing King is possible’. 

Dube told the newspaper, ‘The police informed me that I was facing a treason charge for publishing the articles about the King and after the questioning I was taken to the Magistrate court where they advised that I confess to committing the crime. I politely asked the magistrate to at least allow me to seek services of a lawyer.’

The website of Swati Newsweek has since been removed.

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati as an absolute monarch. Political parties are barred from taking part in elections. The king appoints the prime minister and government as well as top judges and civil servants. Groups calling for democratic reform are banned under  the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
Dube is not the only journalist under threat for reporting about the king. Last month Zweli Martin Dlamini, the editor of the Swaziland News, fled to neighbouring South Africa after he had been arrested and tortured by Swazi police who accused him of sedition. 

Dlamini had previously fled to South Africa in fear of his life in 2018. He had received death threats from a local businessman and his newspaper Swaziland Shopping was shut down by the Swazi government.

Earlier this week the group Reporters Without Borders in its annual World Press Freedom Index reported there was ‘no media freedom’ in Swaziland. It said, ‘Far from being an independent protector of rights and freedoms, the judicial system is often used to undermine journalism.’
It added, ‘Harassment, intimidation and physical violence against journalists are all common and result in almost constant self-censorship.’
The website has been taken down

See also

‘No media freedom’ in Swaziland, Reporters Without Borders annual report states

Swaziland journalist ‘tortured by police after criticising absolute monarch in newspaper articles’

Newspaper editor flees Swaziland for second time after arrest and police torture
‘Attempt made to poison journalist critic of Swaziland’s absolute monarch,’ editor says

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