Govt Has Total Control of TV News

Censorship at Swazi TV is so tight that every month the Swaziland Government issues directives to the station about what events it should cover.

And, the Government has also banned ordinary members of parliament from appearing on the news programmes of Swazi TV.

This was revealed in a report tabled at the Swaziland Parliament.

Bongani ‘Sgcokosiyancinca’ Dlamini, the Chief Executive of Swazi TV said the instructions had been given to the TV station in aance of the 2013 national elections by then Minister of Information, Communication and Technology Winnie Magagula.

His revelation was contained in a report tabled by Hhukwini MP Saladin Magagula, chairperson of the House of Assembly select committee investigating the media ban imposed on MPs on state-owned media.

According to a a href=”http:www.observer.org.sznews73347-%E2%80%98sgcoko%E2%80%99-confirms-mps-banned-from-swazi-tv.html” target=”_blank”report in the Swazi Observera, a newspaper in effect owned by absolute monarch King Mswati III, Dlamini said, ‘It was communicated to the station that any activity outside of government’s calendar cannot be featured as news and that government’s calendar is sent monthly by the press officer in Cabinet and it is normally updated in between.’

Dlamini also said there was a ban on MPs appearing on the news and this ban had not been lifted.

He said the ban had meant to stop MPs appearing on TV during the run-up to the September 2013 national election. In Swaziland, political parties are banned from taking part in elections and all candidates stand as individuals. The ban was not lifted after the election.

Dlamini reportedly said that under the circumstance there was very little that they could do.

Swazi TV is one of only two television stations in Swaziland and is under state control. The other station, Channel S is privately-owned, but has a stated editorial policy to always support King Mswati.

Censorship of radio and television in Swaziland is not new. In August 2014 Minister of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Dumisani Ndlangamandla said the Swaziland Government would not let up on its control of state radio, He said state media existed primarily to serve the interests of the state.

In August 2012 the government announced that in aance of the national election in September 2013 radio would be banned from broadcasting news and information that did not support the government’s own agenda.

All radio in the kingdom, except one Christian station that does not broadcast news, is state-controlled.

New guidelines also barred ‘public service announcements’ unless they were ‘in line with government policy’ or had been authorised ‘by the chiefs through the regional administrators’ or deputy prime minister’s office’.

The guidelines said the radio stations could not be ‘used for purposes of campaigning by individuals or groups, or to aance an agenda for political, financial popularity gains for individuals or groups’.

There is a long history of censorship on state broadcasting in Swaziland. Strikes and anti-government demonstrations are usually ignored by broadcasters. Sometimes live radio programmes are censored on air.

In July 2011, the plug was pulled on a phone-in programme when listeners started criticising the government for its handling of the economy. Percy Simelane, who was then the boss of SBIS, and went on to become the government’s official spokesperson, personally stormed the radio studio and cut the programme.

In April 2011, Welile Dlamini, a long-time news editor at SBIS, challenged the Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini at an editors’ forum meeting on why the state radio station was told by the government what and what not to broadcast.

Welile Dlamini said that at the station they were instructed to spike certain stories such as those about demonstrations by progressives and strike action by workers. The PM responded by saying editors should resign if they were not happy with the editorial policies they are expected to work with.

In March 2011, SBIS stopped broadcasting the BBC World Service Focus on Africa programme after it carried reports critical of King Mswati III. In the same month, SBIS failed to cover the march by nurses that forced the Swazi Government into paying them overdue allowances.

In 2010, Swazi police told SBIS it must stop allowing people to broadcast information about future meetings unless the police had given permission. Jerome Dlamini, Deputy Director of the SBIS said this was to stop the radio station airing an announcement for a meeting that was prohibited.

He said, ‘It’s the station’s policy not to make announcements without police permission.’

In 2006, the minister for public service and information, Themba Msibi, warned the Swazi broadcasters against criticising the King.

MISA reported at the time, ‘The minister’s threats followed a live radio programme of news and current affairs in which a human rights lawyer criticised the King’s sweeping constitutional powers.’

Human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko, had been asked to comment on a visit by an African Union (AU) human rights team which was on a fact-finding mission to Swaziland.

‘In response, Maseko said that, as human rights activists, they had concerns about the King’s sweeping constitutional powers and the fact that he the King was wrongfully placed above the Constitution. He said they were going to bring this and other human rights violations to the attention of the AU delegation.

‘Not pleased with the broadcast, the government was quick to respond. Msibi spoke on air the following day to sternly warn the media against criticising the King. He said the media should exercise respect and avoid issues that seek to question the King or his powers.

‘The minister said his message was not directed only to radio but to all media, both private and government-owned. He said that in government they had noticed that there was growing trend in the media to criticise the King when he should be above criticism and public scrutiny,’ MISA reported.

Maseko, a long-time campaigner for human rights, was jailed for two years along with Nation Magazine editor Bheki Makhubu in July 2014 for writing articles critical of the Swazi judiciary.

Source : Swazi Media Commentary

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