Tuesday, March 27, 2012


The Times of Swaziland censored itself when it reported Wikileaks was asking people in the kingdom to leak documents to its website.

The Times, the only independent daily newspaper in Swaziland, reported yesterday (26 March 2012) that Wikileaks asked people to send it documents relating to the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), a banned organisation in Swaziland where King Mwsati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The Times said Wikileaks, which ‘publishes and comments on leaked documents alleging government and corporate misconduct,’ had specifically asked for ‘Intelligence memos from the Ministry of Defence or Police about the pro-democracy organisation, PUDEMO.’

But, what it did not report was that Wikileaks had a higher priority from Swaziland than PUDEMO on its wanted-information list: ‘Expense accounts of King Mswati, the Queen Mother and the King's wives.’

This is not the first time the Times Group has misled its readers about what people outside the kingdom are saying about the king. In March 2011, its companion newspaper the Times Sunday reported on foreign media coverage of a mass protest in the kingdom that called on the Swazi Government - handpicked by King Mswati – to resign.

The newspaper failed to report that a many international news media specifically laid the blame for Swaziland’s troubles at the feet of the king.

King Mswati, the international media reported, has 13 wives, each with a palace of her own and that his lavish lifestyle runs to fleets of Mercedes and BMW cars, as well as high class international travel. All this while seven in ten of his subjects barely exist, earning less than US$2 a day.

In 2007, the Times’ publisher was forced to make a fulsome public apology to the king after the king threatened to close down the newspapers. This was after the Times Sunday reproduced material from an article by the Afrol news agency quoting an International Monetary Fund report saying, ‘Swaziland is increasingly paralysed by poor governance, corruption and the private spending of authoritarian King Mswati III and his large royal family.’

In the past Wikileaks has published a number of cables from the US Embassy in Swaziland that have been critical of King Mswati, including one from the then Ambassador Earl Irvine stating that the king is ‘not intellectually well developed’, ‘is not a reader’, is ‘imbalanced’ and has a ‘lack of wisdom’.

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