Media freedom in Swaziland (eSwatini) is getting worse and a regional campaign group is calling on absolute monarch King Mswati III to respect human rights.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) wrote to the King to express ‘concern at the deteriorating media freedom and freedom of expression environment’ in the kingdom.
It said that ‘media freedom violations are on the increase’ and there is a ‘lack’ of media rights.
MISA said, ‘harassment, intimidation and physical violence against journalists are all common and result in almost constant self-censorship’.
Zweli Martin Dlamini, the editor of the Swaziland News, an online newspaper, has been forced into exile in South Africa. Eugene Dube, editor of the Swati Newsweek website, has also been forced into exile in South Africa.
‘Dlamini and Dube’s “crimes” have been to write articles deemed to be too critical of the King,’ MISA said.
King Mswati and the Swazi Government have filed high court papers in South Africa seeking to stop eSwatini publications from publishing stories on the King, his family and associates without their prior consent.
‘Such a lawsuit presents Eswatini and the King as intolerant to criticism and averse to being held to account,’ MISA said.
It added section 24 of the Swaziland Constitution promotes freedom of expression. MISA told the King, ‘But this right remains elusive for media workers in your country. In addition, the lawsuit filed in South Africa also flies in the face of this constitutionally guaranteed right.’
It called on the King to respect the principles of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, which expressly calls on African governments to promote freedom of expression and of the media in their respective countries.
MISA said, ‘We urge the eSwatini authorities to demonstrate their commitment and adherence to constitutionally guaranteed rights by allowing the media to operate freely without any harassments, assaults, threats or reprisals for doing their work.’
It called on the King ‘to intervene in the cases against Dlamini and Dube and ensure that they are allowed back into the country to freely continue with their constitutionally guaranteed professional rights without hindrance’.
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