Monday, August 31, 2020

Swaziland introduces law with 10 year jail term for publishing ‘fake news’

The government in the absolute monarchy of Swaziland (eSwatini) has introduced a law aimed at censoring all forms of media which could lead to a 10-year jail sentence for people publishing ‘fake news’.

The kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch already has been labelled ‘not free’ by human rights groups.

A government gazette has been published detailing the proposed law. The bill will be piloted by the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology which is headed by the King’s daughter, Princess Sikhanyiso.

The Times of eSwatini reported that the bill states that any person who publishes any statement or fake news through any medium, including social media, with the intention to deceive any other person or group of persons commits an offence. On conviction a person would be liable to a fine not exceeding E10 million (US$600,000) or imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or both.

The new law would allow the courts to prosecute in some circumstances Swazi nationals who live outside of Swaziland. It also covers a wide range of offences including spamming and cyberstalking. Cyberstalking includes making false accusations, defamation and identity theft.

King Mswati who has been widely criticised by human rights groups controls much of the mainstream media in Swaziland. Nearly all broadcasting is state-controlled and one of the only two daily newspapers in the kingdom is in effect owned by the King. Formal censorship and self-censorship by journalists when reporting matters about the King is almost total.

In recent years news websites that call for human rights reforms in Swaziland have been launched. The editors of two of them are in exile in neighbouring South Africa after publishing articles deemed critical of the King. They face sedition charges if they return to Swaziland. There are also a number of Facebook sites and other social media platforms that carry material critical of the King.

Reporters Without Borders in its World Press Index released earlier in 2020 reported that there was no media freedom in Swaziland. It reported, ‘No court is allowed to prosecute or try members of the government, but any criticism of the regime is liable to be the subject of a prosecution. Far from being an independent protector of rights and freedoms, the judicial system is often used to undermine journalism.’

Freedom House scored Swaziland 16 out of a possible 100 points in its Freedom in the World 2019 report. It concluded that Swaziland was ‘not free’.

Freedom House stated, ‘The King exercises ultimate authority over all branches of the national government and effectively controls local governance through his influence over traditional chiefs. Political dissent and civic and labor activism are subject to harsh punishment under sedition and other laws. Additional human rights problems include impunity for security forces and discrimination against women and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people.’

In Swaziland political parties are barred from taking part in elections. Groups advocating for democracy are outlawed under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

See also

Swaziland journalist critical of King flees, hides in forest five days

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

‘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
Swaziland democracy leader charged with sedition for criticising absolute monarch on news website

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Nearly half the people with tuberculosis in Swaziland don’t know they have it, report suggests

Nearly half of the people in Swaziland (eSwatini) who have the disease tuberculosis (TB) do not know it, according to a new report.

TB in the kingdom is a prominent threat to public health. The situation is serious, especially because it often goes undetected.

TB is a bacteria that usually attacks the lungs, but it can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain.

A report published by Borgan from Seattle, United States, states some people with TB are asymptomatic (they show no signs of it). ‘Thus, there is a disparity between individuals who unknowingly have tuberculosis and others who can become very ill. Common symptoms include chest pain, a strong cough lasting three or more weeks and coughing up blood or sputum.’

The US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in 2017 estimated that the incidence of TB in Swaziland was 308 per 100,000 people. However, the mortality rate for tuberculosis was low at only 10 per 100,000 people in 2019. This is significantly lower than the 2003 mortality rate of 18 per 100,000 people. The National Tuberculosis Control Programme (NTCP) estimates that children account for only 10 percent percent of all Swazis with tuberculosis.

The report stated, ‘Though these rates may seem low, tuberculosis in Eswatini is still a serious public health issue. Swazis may not be dying from the disease as they once were, but they continue to live with it. Approximately 47 percent of Swazis with tuberculosis have gone undetected.’

The CDC is one organization that works directly with the Swazi Ministry of Health to address tuberculosis infection. It especially focuses on providing technical assistance to promote combined tuberculosis and HIV aid. This assistance includes testing, preventative treatment, and antiretroviral treatment. Its efforts have been effective as the organization reported the tuberculosis treatment rate of success to be 83 percent in 2016.

See also

Nurses catch TB from patients

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Swaziland public transport in chaos as bus workers strike over coronavirus lockdown

Public transport in the Swaziland (eSwatini) city of Manzini was severely disrupted when bus operators stopped work and barricaded the bus rank.

The action came amid confusion over how buses – known locally as kombis – would operate as the lockdown of the kingdom due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis starts to be eased.

The problem concerned the route from Manzini, Swaziland’s main commercial city, to Mbabane, the kingdom’s capital. Workers in Manzini wanted to operate normally but those in Mbabane wanted to abide by existing restrictions.

The Times of Eswatini reported on Wednesday (26 August 2020), ‘It was gathered that kombi operators that are registered under Manzini demanded that all their vehicles should be allowed to operate while those in Mbabane were of the view that only 50 per cent of the total number of kombis servicing the route should work.’

About 130 kombis service the route.

Swaziland Local Transport Association Chairperson Mandla Dlamini told the eSwatini Observer an interim resolution had been made for the kombis continue operating until Friday when the association’s executive would make a final decision.

See also

Swaziland bus operators defy coronavirus regulations to run fully loaded despite surge in deaths

More Swaziland schools reopen as health expert predicts coronavirus cases could triple by end of month