Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Swaziland Members of Parliament say they are being banned from the radio airwaves by the government. 

They say it is because of a policy made by the Swazi Cabinet.  

A row erupted in the House of Assembly when MPs accused Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini of keeping them off the airwaves. In Swaziland broadcasting is state controlled and the PM is editor-in-chief of the SBIS radio stations and the Swazi TV Channel.

Dlamini said MPs could not go on air without the permission of their areas’ chiefs. He said it was wrong for them to just go on radio with issues which the chiefs were not even aware of.

This is not the first time the government has been shown to be censoring the airwaves.

In August 2012 it was revealed that radio stations in Swaziland would be banned from broadcasting news and information that did not support the government’s own agenda.

Coverage of all events was banned ‘except those authorised by relevant authorities’, according to the rules.

The guidelines  also bar ‘public service announcements’ unless they are ‘in line with government policy’ or have been authorised ‘by the chiefs through the regional administrators’ or deputy prime minister’s office’.

The guidelines say the radio stations, which fall under the control of the Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Service (SBIS), cannot be ‘used for purposes of campaigning by individuals or groups, or to advance an agenda for political, financial popularity gains for individuals or groups’.

There is a long history of censorship on state broadcasting in Swaziland. Strikes and anti-government demonstrations are usually ignored by broadcasters. Sometimes live radio programmes are censored on air. In July 2011, the plug was pulled on a phone-in programme when listeners started criticising the government for its handling of the economy. Percy Simelane, who was then the boss of SBIS, and is now the government’s official spokesperson, personally stormed the radio studio and cut the programme. 

In April 2011, Welile Dlamini, a long-time news editor at SBIS, challenged the Prime Minister at an editors’ forum meeting on why the state radio station was told by the government what and what not to broadcast. Dlamini said that at the station they were instructed to spike certain stories such as those about demonstrations by progressives and strike action by workers. The PM responded by saying editors should resign if they were not happy with the editorial policies they are expected to work with. 

In March 2011, SBIS stopped broadcasting the BBC World Service Focus on Africa programme after it carried reports critical of King Mswati III. In the same month, SBIS failed to cover the march by nurses that forced the Swazi Government into paying them overdue allowances.

In 2010, Swazi police told SBIS it must stop allowing people to broadcast information about future meetings unless the police had given permission. Jerome Dlamini, Deputy Director of the SBIS said this was to stop the radio station airing an announcement for a meeting that was prohibited.

He said, ‘It’s the station’s policy not to make announcements without police permission.’

See also


No comments: