12 April 2013
A media complaints commission for print news is now operating in Swaziland, after almost ten years of planning and discussion. Members of the public can now contact a media ombudsman who, along with a panel, will decide whether corrective action should be taken or the complaint should be taken to mediation.
“It’s a good thing,” says Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, national director at the Media Institute of Southern Africa in Swaziland (MISA-Swaziland). “At least now people will have their complaints and grievances addressed.” Hlatshwayo also said if all goes to plan it will show that the media is now accountable to the people.
It is thought that the media complaints commission (MCC) has begun operating now because the government has threatened to pass a slew of communications bills before their term ends in August 2013; a provision in one of the bills might lead to a statutory complaints council if there is no operating complaints council in place – a scenario most people in the media want to avoid.
The newly appointed ombudsman is Jabu Matsebula, who is currently serving as secretary general of the Swaziland Editor’s Forum and is a former United Nations communications officer in Swaziland. People can contact Matsebula to lodge their complaints via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or via phone, or can arrange to meet him in person at the MISA-Swaziland office.
The MCC will remain in an ‘introductory phase’ at MISA-Swaziland until December 2013, at which point the print media houses, who are helping to fund the operation, will decide if they want make the commission permanent. MISA-Swaziland is assisting the MCC with its overheads during this introductory phase.
“It’s a very important development given [the MCC] has been in the works for a decade,” said Matsebula. The new ombudsman said it is important not only because it will allow mediation to take place where necessary, but also because a structure is now in place that will give confidence to people who feel they have been wronged by the media, or simply allow people the opportunity to correct misinformation.
For comments or queries, please contact:
VuyisileHlatshwayo, MISA-Swaziland National Director