October 3 2013
Following the unwarranted police attacks on print media journalists in their line of duty, MISA Swaziland condemns these continued acts of media freedom violation. Two weeks ago, a Hlathikhulu Police Station desk officer manhandled Times of Swaziland reporter, Sisho Magagula, and deleted pictures from his camera while he was on duty covering a community protest march in the Kontshingila area. Hot on the heels of this, last Saturday another plain-clothed police officer allegedly pulled a gun at photojournalist, Walter Dlamini, who was covering another community protest march at Gege Inkhundla in the Shiselweni region.
What is concerning and worrying is that these acts of media freedom violation have reached a level where the perpetrators are now using guns against law-abiding journalists who are covering events that are in the public interest, and are of public interest. The second incident happened after MISA Swaziland had set an appointment with National Police Commissioner, Isaac Magagula, to express our grave concerns on the continued harassment and intimidation of journalists by the police force while in their line of duty. The Institute further wanted to discuss possible interventions to alleviate this increasingly disturbing situation.
MISA Swaziland finds it quite shocking that when the National Police Commissioner had already fixed a date for the meeting the police continued with their acts of media violation. This time around one of them pointed a gun at photojournalists Walter Dlamini, whose crime was covering the protesting community of Gege against the newly elected Member of Parliament. In our journalism parlance, a picture speaks a thousand words. As the media fraternity, we are still shocked that police with guns are now a big threat to our lives.
The Institute appeals to the police to stop harassing and intimidating journalists when they are in their line of duty. They should know that journalists are no different from them in the public service. While the duty of the police is to maintain peace and order, the journalists’ duty is to disseminate public information needed by the citizens to make decisions and choices. MISA Swaziland calls upon all the police to respect the rights of the media practitioners and citizens as enshrined in the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.
MISA Swaziland calls upon the police to take a cue from the wise words of former Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Michael Somare: “Media freedom is my freedom. Media freedom is your freedom. Media freedom is our freedom. But with this freedom comes great responsibility.”
For comments or queries, please contact:
MISA-Swaziland National Director