King Mswati III has praised his own newspaper, the Swazi Observer, for the coverage it has given to the national election due on Friday.
The king in effect owns the conglomerate Tibiyo Taka Ngwane that in turn owns the Observer group.
Mbongeni Mbingo, the Observer managing editor, wrote in his own newspaper, ‘He said, in particular, this newspaper had endeavoured to encourage the nation to exercise its right to vote, and had continued to give good coverage of the exercise.’
Mbingo reported, ‘The king said he had observed that a lot of the excitement around the election was because the media was playing its role as a catalyst.’
Such praise from the king is not unexpected. In its last annual report on media freedom, published in May 2013, the Media Institute of Southern Africacalled the Swazi Observer a ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’.
The coverage of the election by the Observer is in stark contrast to that of international media. They are pointing out that the election for 55 members of the House of Assembly has little purpose since political parties are banned from taking part and parliament has no power. The king rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
The comments were part of a wider interview the Swazi Observer had with King Mswati. It was billed as an ‘exclusive’, but a similar interview was published in the Times of Swaziland, the Observer’s only rival newspaper on the same day.Reuters news agency also published an interview with the king last week.
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