Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Swaziland King embroiled in another press freedom row after website accuses him of business wrongdoing

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government has said it will pursue a newspaper editor using ‘legal channels’ after he wrote and published articles critical of absolute monarch King Mswati III.

Zweli Martin Dlamini, founder and editor of the Swaziland News, an online newspaper has published several articles stating that the King had entered into a multi-billion cannabis deal with a foreign company for his own benefit.

In an official statement Government Spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini called the reports  ‘libellous, unfounded and factually incorrect’.

Sabelo Dlamini added, ‘Government continues to pursue legal channels to hold Zweli Dlamini accountable for spreading misinformation.’

In the past in Swaziland journalists who criticised the king have been charged with sedition.
Swaziland News is hosted online in neighbouring South Africa because laws in Swaziland restrict which publications may be printed in the kingdom.

This is not the first time Zweli Martin Dlamini has been in trouble with the absolute monarch. In April 2020 he wrote and published reports that King Mswati had tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) and had been taken to hospital with breathing problems.

He had reportedly fled to neighbouring South Africa in March 2020 for the second time. He said he had been arrested and tortured by Swazi police who accused him of sedition.

Also, on 7 February 2020, The Swaziland News reported Dlamini was being harassed and receiving death threats from King Mswati’s first born daughter Princess Sikhanyiso, who is the Minister of Information Communication and Technology.

Dlamini had previously fled to South Africa in fear of his life in 2017. He had received death threats from a local businessman before his newspaper Swaziland Shopping was shut down by the Swazi government when the newspaper’s registration under the Books and Newspapers Act 1963 was declined by the Swazi Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology.

Separately, on 23 April 2020 Eugene Dube, the editor of another online publication, Swati Newsweek, was arrested and beaten by police. Police accused him of writing and publishing critical articles about King Mswati. He later fled to South Africa to escape arrest.

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) named Dube one of 30 coronavirus ‘information heroes’ who it described as ‘whistleblowers and media outlets whose courage, perseverance or capacity to innovate has helped to circulate reliable and vital information during the Covid-19 pandemic.’

Swazi police also charged Ncamiso Ngcamphalala, President of the Swaziland Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), with sedition for comments he made in an a article published by Swati Newsweek.

In the report Ngcamphalala was quoted saying, ‘We want government to change people’s lives, the Swazi Monarchy must know its place. We respect the King, but respect is earned and when pushed into a corner; we will be forced to retaliate. We unapologetically stand for multi-party democracy.’

See also

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

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

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

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