Wednesday, October 2, 2013


The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and the Swaziland Editors’ Forum (SFE) jointly met with Swazi national police commissioner Isaac Magagula to make a formal complaint after a policeman pointed a gun at a newspaper photographer and demanded he delete pictures of police beating up unarmed protesters.

According to MISA, Magagula ‘unreservedly’ apologised to the ‘whole journalism fraternity’ in the kingdom.

The complaint came after Walter Dlamini, a Times of Swaziland photojournalist, had a police gun pointed at him in the southern Swazi town of Gege, where he was covering a protest about the result of last month’s national election.

Dlamini and his colleague Mduduzi Magagula refused and the policeman pulled his gun away from Dlamini. Later photographs appeared in the Times of the incident. One was captioned, ‘A plain clothes police officer taking out a revolver and charges at the photographer while his colleagues beat up a man.’

MISA said in a statement, ‘Dlamini told MISA-Swaziland the protestors were not armed. He said they were peacefully trying to deliver a petition to their local leader when the police gave them 10 seconds to leave or else they would fire tear gas. The protesters didn’t leave after the ten-second window and the tear gas came, as well as beatings.’

Dlamini told MISA, ‘It wasn’t necessary for the police to beat the protestors. I saw nothing wrong with the protestors.’

Phakama Shili, advocacy officer at MISA-Swaziland, said the ‘inhumane’ squashing of protest and threats against the media ‘should be condemned in the strongest possible terms’.

‘Journalism is becoming a dangerous profession in a country that projects itself as peaceful to the outside world,’ said Shili.

‘If there’s no action taken, journalists may end up being killed. The situation requires urgent attention.’

MISA in its statement reported Police Commissioner Magagula saying, ‘It would also help if the journalists carry their press cards or wear vests written “press” for identification purposes when covering riots.’

MISA did not report if any disciplinary action would be taken against the policeman.

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