August 8 2013
Swaziland’s deputy prime minister, Themba Masuku, has told cabinet members to slow down on the usage of national radio and the media in the lead up to national elections, according to reports in the Swazi Observer.
“Everything has to be managed. This is meant to avoid a situation where some people will have unfair advantage, because not everyone will have access to the national radio. Everything needs to be managed, I repeat,” said Masuku in the Swazi Observer.
According to the report, Masuku said from now on, ministers would only be allowed to speak on official business, and not anything outside of that. Even before then, they would have to seek permission from his (deputy prime minister’s) office.
The Swazi Observer article says the DPM’s order comes in the “wake of a set of broadcasting guidelines from the ministry of information, communication and technology (ICT) that were received with heavy hearts by former Members of Parliament”.
“The guidelines required that anyone who had any information to share with the public, which touched on community matters, should go through traditional authorities (chiefs) and seek approval.
“Because of the guidelines, the MPs felt they were being deprived access to use the national radio like they used do [sic] in the past, as most of them were keen to follow the laid down rules.
“They felt the guidelines were crafted to frustrate them and said they were being accused of using the radio as a campaigning tool, something they denied.
“The ban drove former MP Masende Zwane to tears, as he pleaded with the PM to lift it claiming it frustrated progress.”
The broadcasting media ban remains in place.
The country’s only privately-owned daily newspaper, Times of Swaziland, has not yet reported on the most recent story of the DPM telling ministers to ease up on using the radio.
Swaziland’s Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Swaziland), a press freedom NGO, suggests that the ban and restrictions on citizens and parliamentarians using the so-called ‘public broadcasters’ (TV and radio) is in conflict with Section 24 of the national Constitution.
Section 24 of the self-proclaimed ‘supreme law of Swaziland’ guarantees and protects freedom of expression, freedom of the media, and freedom to give and receive information. Specifically, Section 24 (c) says people have the “freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference (whether the communication be to the public generally or to any person or class of persons)”.
In the spirit of Section 24 of the Constitution, MISA-Swaziland recently started its e-Forum — an ‘online space’ for news and information on, for, and by the country’s civil society, NGO sector, and anyone wishing to express a view that may not be captured by the mainstream media. If Swazi ministers and candidates for the upcoming elections wish to get their messages and press releases online, please email them to MISA-Swaziland National Director at email@example.com or to firstname.lastname@example.org
MISA-Swaziland is concerned by the ban and restrictions on people using the national broadcasters: it infringes on people’s right to express themselves freely via the media.
For comments or queries, please contact:
MISA-Swaziland National Director