Support for the Swaziland magazine editor and human rights lawyer jailed on remand on contempt of court charges is pouring in from across the world.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called for the immediate release of Bheki Makhubu, editor of the Swaziland independent news magazine the Nation, and lawyer Thulani Maseko.
Amnesty International has declared both men ‘prisoners of conscience’.
Ditshwanelo, The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, which is a member of the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN), called Makhubu and Maesko, ‘two human rights defenders’.
Both men have been charged with contempt of court after articles were published in the Nation magazine accusing the judiciary in Swaziland of improper conduct in a case involving Bhantshana Gwebu, the government’s chief motor vehicle inspector, who was arrested after impounding a vehicle used by another high court judge. After a week in custody, Gwebu was released on bail. His case is pending in the high court.
CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Sue Valentine said in a statement, ‘These arrests make a mockery of Swaziland's constitution, which is supposed to uphold freedom of expression.’
In a statement Ditshwanelo said, ‘SAHRDN has been monitoring developments in the Kingdom of Swaziland and is alarmed by the serious deterioration of the human rights situation. Arbitrary arrests, detention and malicious prosecution of human rights defenders, including members of the legal profession and journalists continue unabated.’
Amnesty International said, ‘We consider Bhekithemba Makhubu and Thulani Maseko to be prisoners of conscience, arrested and detained merely for exercising their right to freedom of expression. The Swaziland authorities must release them immediately and unconditionally.’
In an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Mary Rayner a researcher on Swaziland at Amnesty International, said the arrests of Makhubu and Maseko had ‘an intimidating effect’.
She added, ‘There has been various ways in which the journalists' community and publishing community in Swaziland over a period of years has been subjected to threats and intimidation and seizure of material and using also some of the aspects of the draconian terrorism acts to silence the publication of information and opinion.’
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