Swaziland Journalists’ code of ethics
In 2002 the Swaziland National Association of Journalists (SNAJ), in coordination with the Swaziland Editors Forum and practising reporters and editors, developed and approved a code of conduct to ensure professional standards were maintained by all journalists in the country.
The code was updated in 2005 to include clauses on the coverage of HIV/AIDS and gender issues. However, at the moment no organisation exists to ensure the code of ethics is adhered to. Therefore SNAJ currently relies on willing editors in newsrooms to make sure journalists know about — and adhere to — the code. For more background, see Dr Richard Rooney’s ‘Swazi Media Commentary’ blog, and click here for information on the need for Swaziland to adopt a journalism code for reporting on elections.
Freedom of expression
Swaziland’s constitution explicitly protects freedom of expression. But the extent of the protection is questionable since section 24 of the constitution contains elaborate limitations that could be used to curtail freedom of expression.
There are also many laws — new and old — that infringe on freedom of expression. Most notably the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) 2008, which has created a climate of fear. The Amnesty International report, ‘An Atmosphere of Intimidation‘, says, “all those who were vocal are quieter now because of the Act.” The STA defines support of terrorism so broadly that virtually anyone can be prosecuted. This law clearly sets out to obstruct free speech.
Freedom of information
Swaziland, one of the world’s last absolute monarchies, has many restrictive media laws, such as the Official Secrets Act 1963, which prohibits access to government-held information.
The Constitution does not include freedom of information as a stand-alone right. However, it does state under the protection of freedom of expression (section 24) that a person has the “freedom to receive ideas and information without interference”.
The existing legislative environment in Swaziland does little to promote media freedom and, in many instances, actively obstructs it. MISA believes an independent law reform commission would be the best avenue to removing all the unnecessary restrictions on media freedom. Until such an avenue is made possible, MISA calls on the government to:
- Amend the Suppression of Terrorism Act — see Atmosphere of Intimidation report
- Enact freedom of information legislation
- Enact legislation that establishes an independent broadcasting regulator
- Enact a Public Service Broadcasting Act that will see Swazi TV and SBIS transformed into one independent public broadcaster
What is community radio?
Community radio stations are community owned and operated entities that serve either localised geographic communities or communities of interest, such as minorities, religious groups and universities.
Community radio is unique because the stations are run by the communities themselves. They are owned and managed by the people they serve. The management is usually a small team of paid staff with the programming conducted by volunteers.