Monday, June 8, 2009


When Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister, told journalists they had nothing to fear from him he was not telling the truth.

Dlamini, was previously PM in 1997 to 2003 and during that time he was famed for his disregard for the rule of law and his attack on freedom of speech.

Dlamini attacked the media and two publications were closed down for reporting things he did not like.

This week comes news that the Swazi Government intends to press forward with plans for state-imposed regulation of the media in Swaziland. This could mean that the government would be able to decide whether journalists are doing their jobs properly. It could lead to sanctions against media houses which violate the government’s rules. There are even suggestions that journalists would have to be registered by the government: put simply that means that the government decides who can and who cannot work as a journalist.

At present in Swaziland most of the media is state controlled. Workers, including journalists, at Swazi TV and SBIS radio are civil servants. The only other radio station Voice of the Church is a Christian station and doesn’t deal with news and current affairs. The only ‘independent’ television station, Channel S, is owned by a former ‘praise singer’ of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Channel S is not seen as being independent from the state.

There are two newspaper groups, the Swazi Observer is in effect owned by King Mswati and the Times of Swaziland is the only independent media house in Swaziland, but when the going gets tough it bends to the will of King Mswati.

Last week Dlamini told his regular monthly editors’ forum that plans for statutory regulation through a Media Complaints Commission were underway.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland said in a statement it was opposed to government regulation. ‘We’re totally against government’s pronouncement on the issue of Media Complaints Commission (MCC),’ said Comfort Mabuza, MISA Swaziland National Director.

MISA believes the media should be allowed to regulate itself.

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