23 April 2013
Bheki Makhubu, editor of The Nation magazine, has lodged an appeal against his conviction and sentence. The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) understands the appeal went through late Monday (22 April) and was in time to beat today’s deadline of paying a US$21,500 fine or face two years in prison.
The Nation, one of Swaziland’s very few independent sources of news is published by Swaziland Independent Publishers. The magazine was found guilty of “contempt by scandalizing the court” following its publication of two articles in 2009 and 2010 that criticised Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi.
Today’s edition of the Times of Swaziland reports that “this [the appeal] means the magazine and its editor Bheki Makhubu will no longer have to meet today’s deadline” of paying the $US21,500 fine as ordered by high court judge, Bheki Maphalala, last week. He is also not going to prison as things currently stand.
The editor now awaits a determination on his appeal by the Supreme Court. MISA understands that the court’s decision may only come in November this year as the court only sits in May and November to deliberate on appeals. It is unlikely that Makhubu’s appeal will make it into the May sitting.
MISA has expressed serious concern about the editor’s conviction and sentence. The organisation’s Programme Specialist for Media Freedom Monitoring and Research, Levi Kabwato, described the development as “a major setback for media freedom and freedom of expression in Swaziland”. He also called on journalists, media practitioners and free expression activists around the world to support the call for media freedom in Swaziland.
“With elections due in the country later this year, the media’s role will become ever so critical. but if that media is under the threat of legal sanction, or indeed other threats as we have recorded previously, then this is only the beginning of what is likely to be a very problematic period for Swazi media,” Kabwato said.
For comments or queries, please contact:
Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, MISA-Swaziland National Director