September 30 2013
Walter Dlamini, the Times of Swaziland photojournalist who had a police gun pointed at him last Saturday, says he’s doing “okay”.
Dlamini, who was covering a protest in the southern Swazi town of Gege on Saturday 28 September, said the armed policeman — “cocked revolver” in hand — was “about five metres away and coming closer”.
The Times of Swaziland reported on Monday 30 September that it took the intervention of Dlamini’s colleague, Mduduzi Magagula, who told the policeman to stop interfering with the work of journalists, before the policeman pulled his gun away from Dlamini.
When asked if he thought the policeman would have shot him, Dlamini calmly replied: “I don’t know, anything can happen.”
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.
“It wasn’t necessary for the police to beat the protestors. I saw nothing wrong with the protestors.”
Dlamini said there is not much support for journalists in the country. He suggested it would be good if his employer, Times of Swaziland Group of Newspapers, offered the option of a counselling or support system for journalists who come into harm’s way.
Concerned by continued harassment of journalists by police, MISA-Swaziland together with the Swaziland Editors’ Forum (SFE) met this morning with national police commissioner, Isaac Magagula, to lodge a formal complaint.
The national police commissioner “unreservedly” apologised to the whole media fraternity and the affected journalists at the Times of Swaziland Group of Newspapers. As a lasting solution to this problem, he suggested organising a training course on the role of media for all the police, from the top brass down to the juniors.
“It would also help if the journalists carry their press cards or wear vests written ‘press’ for identification purposes when covering riots,” he said.
Editor of Times of Swaziland’s Sunday newspaper, Innocent Maphalala, “strongly condemned the action of the police, wondering if this was how the police wanted the world to perceive the kingdom’s Monarchical Democracy”, reported the Times of Swaziland on Monday 29 September.
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.”
For comments or queries, please contact:
MISA-Swaziland National Director