‘Unfair for People in Power to Control How Other People Should Think,’ Says Jailed Swazi Journalist From Witness Box [press release]

Defence lawyers for detained journalist Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko yesterday finished presenting their case at Swaziland’s High Court.

Makhubu and Maseko have been in jail for over 80 days after being charged with criminal contempt of court and remanded into Sidwashini prison for writing opinion pieces criticising the actions of the nation’s judiciary.

Yesterday in court Makhubu, editor of The Nation magazine, was cross-examined by director of public prosecutions Nkosinathi Maseko, who is representing the Crown in the matter.

If found guilty of contempt, “The editor said it would be a damning indictment to the state of the judiciary if a lowly newspaper man like himself” could bring the justice system into disrepute, reported today’s Swazi Observer.

Makhubu said it is “unfair for people in power to control how other people should think,” making reference to controversial chief justice Michael Ramodibedi.

“The veteran scribe said the CJ should know better as an educated man that the public was bound to question [Ramodibedi’s] decisions because he paid with [Swazi] taxpayer’s money,” added the Swazi Observer.

The Times of Swaziland, under the headline ’13 more days in jail for duo,’ said the matter was postponed to June 24 when the court will hear submissions.

As freedom of speech continues to come under threat in Swaziland, the European Union has spoken out against the ongoing detention of Makhubu and Maseko, as well as the arrests and detention of political activists. Today’s Times of Swaziland reported on the EU’s recent statement at the International Labour Organisation in Geneva.

The EU is “very concerned by recent developments in Swaziland that infringe on the rights of expression, opinion, assembly and association…

“We wish to recall the commitment made by Swaziland under the Cotonou Agreement – the framework for Swaziland’s cooperation with the European Union – to respect democracy, the rule of law and human rights principles which include freedom of association.”

The Times of Swaziland’s editorial from today echoed the EU’s words.

“If we are going to create our own version of democracy, we need to to include a little democracy in it,” said the Times of Swaziland.

Source : MISA-Swaziland

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