‘Friends of the Nation’ can now help: Embattled Swazi magazine sets up legal assistance fund as court saga continues

MISA-Swaziland | Media Alert
August 5 2014

A monthly magazine in Swaziland is appealing for support as it continues to battle its way through the courts in a case that has drawn attention to the lack of free speech in the landlocked nation in southern Africa.

The Nation magazine, published by Swaziland Independent Publishers Pty Ltd, was convicted of criminal contempt of court on July 17 2014 after publishing two “scurrilous” articles by respected writers who questioned the kingdom’s controversial judicial system. The magazine intends to appeal the decision in the Supreme Court sitting in November.

In a statement appealing for financial support as its legal bills continue to rise, the magazine wrote:

“For generous people who would like to contribute towards the legal assistance for The Nation contempt of court case, the publisher has set up the Friends of The Nation Fund. Deposits can now be made to First National Bank of Swaziland, Account Number: 62024928155. Branch Code: 280164. Swift Code: FIRNSZMX.”

Bheki Makhubu, editor of The Nation and respected journalist, criticised Swaziland chief justice Michael Ramodibedi in an opinion piece over the judge’s involvement in the arrest of a government official.

Observer on Saturday 2 years no fine
Front page of weekend newspaper Observer on Saturday after the sentencing of respected Swazi writers Bheki Makhubu and Thulani Maseko

Makhubu is not alone in his criticism of Ramodibedi. Many local and international groups have been calling for the controversial judge to step down over serious allegations of misconduct. Click here to read more about Ramodibedi’s own legal battles.

Makhubu was co-accused with Thulani Maseko, a prominent human rights lawyer and columnist for The Nation, who also criticised the actions of the chief justice in an impassioned opinion piece that called for Swaziland to uphold the rule of law.

Lawyers argued that Makhubu and Maseko were simply expressing sincerely held opinions and fair comments that are in the public interest. Lawyers for the Crown agued that the writers disrespected the chief justice and brought the judicial system into disrepute. Newly-appointed high court judge Mpendulo Simelane agreed with the Crown lawyer and sentenced the duo to two years in jail without the option of a fine.

The Nation magazine was fined E100,000 (US$10,000).

The Nation is one of Swaziland’s few sources of independent news and opinion. By sticking to its mandate of ‘speaking truth to power’ it is no stranger to the courts. For many years the small but reliable publication has been outspoken in supporting Swaziland’s shift to a more open and tolerant country that respects its own constitution.

According to research publications by global human rights defender Freedom House Swaziland is rated ‘Not Free’ in Freedom in the World 2014 and Freedom of the Press 2014.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Border ranked Swaziland 156th out of 180 countries in its 2014 press freedom index.

Read more about The Nation’s contempt of court case by clicking here

For further information about supporting The Nation contact Mr Vuyisile Hlatshwayo

Phone:  +268 7615 6605
                 +268 24041480
                 +268 2404 6611       

Email: hlatshwayov@thenation.co.sz



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