Swazi government clamps down on private press

Mbabane- Swaziland (PANA) -- Swaziland's emerging independent media is under siege as government clamps down on publications seen to be critical of the establishment.
Information minister Mntonzima Dlamini late last week banned the only two independent publications, The Guardian of Swaziland and The Nation newsmagazine, respectively published by The Guardian Media Group (Pty) Limited and Swaziland Independent Publishers (Pty) Limited.
The move came only a day after the minister, along with attorney general Phesheya Dlamini summoned the publishers and printers and to remind them to comply with the Books and Newspapers Act 1963 within 24 hours.
In his injunction, Dlamini stated that The Guardian overstepped the bounds of press freedom with its 'exposes' on the royal family, most of which were vehemently refuted by King Mswati III.
The paper is thought to have incurred the wrath of the authorities after it became very popular for its coverage of secretive royal affairs including King Mswati's undisclosed illness, the sacking of royal cooks and allegations that the King was poisoned by his third wife Inkhosikati LaMbikiza.
"I'm still baffled really how these reports started off and on what basis," the King himself said in a reaction last Saturday, adding "one wonders what this campaign was intended to achieve and whom it was aimed to please.
" Asked if the banning of the publications was prompted by the King's anger, Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini said the King had nothing to do with the closures.
He said the decision to close the publications was taken on Friday and the king made his policy statement the following day.
Attorney General Phesheya Dlamini argued that government wants all the publications to abide with the 1963 Books and Newspapers Act.
Last Friday the police confiscated 20,000 copies of The Guardian at the Oshoek border from South Africa.
The Swaziland National Association of Journalists and the Swazi chapter of the Media Institute for Southern Africa have condemned the closure of the two independent publications.

09 may 2001 11:02:00

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