MISA-Swaziland | Alert
March 4 2014
Local media reported that King Mswati III, Swaziland’s ruler since 1986, told security officials to stop harassing journalists during a traditional festival.
“His Majesty the King came to the rescue of journalists who were covering the marula festival at Hlane after they were occasionally harassed by security officials,” reported the Times of Swaziland yesterday.
“A group of security officers bearing tags marked ‘Press Control’ occasionally harassed journalists and prevented them from taking pictures of some of the people seated under the VIP tent.”
The journalists were reportedly trying to take photos of the Queen Mother, mother of King Mswati, when security officials got in their way.
“Some journalists were manhandled and shoved out of the arena in full view of His Majesty the King,” reported the Times of Swaziland.
According to the newspaper a photojournalist was overheard saying the following when plain-clothed police pushed him: “Please leave me to do my job! Don’t grab me like this.”
As the scuffles broke out “the king immediately sent Khandlela Mdluli, the Protocol Officer, to calm things down”.
Mdluli is reported to have said: “The King says stop shoving them and let them do their job. He says you must only make sure they do not block those who are dancing.”
Swaziland’s Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Swaziland) welcomes the king’s comments and urges all others in positions of authority to also respect the work of journalists. In particular, the role the media can play in fostering developing, reducing poverty, and bringing greater transparency.
Journalists often have a difficult time doing their job in Swaziland, an absolute monarchy. Censorship is widespread and any direct criticism of the ruling monarchy is forbidden.