The head of the only independent television station in Swaziland has admitted publicly that his station airs biased programmes.
Qhawe Mamba, who co-owns Channel Swazi (Channel S), confirmed this week that the station would always praise King Mswati III.
This news may come as no surprise to the channel’s few viewers, but it is good to have the information confirmed nonetheless. It also means that we should not trust news and current affairs programmes that appear on Channel Swazi, as they will always support the king and by extension the kingdom’s corrupt ruling elite.
The Weekend Observer (2-3 February 2008) reports Mamba saying that Channel Swazi is seen frequently praising the king. The Weekend Observer reported Mamba saying ‘this is something they would do always because they paid allegiance to their king in their capacity as bona fide citizens’.
Mamba is reported saying, ‘We are citizens of the Kingdom and we have to be patriotic.’
This intentional bias directly contravenes the Swaziland National Association of Journalists (SNAJ) Code of Conduct. Section one states that it is the duty of every journalist to write and report, adhere to and faithfully defend, the truth. A journalist should provide the public with unbiased, accurate, balanced and comprehensive information.
Deliberately distorting news and information about King Mswati III in order to be ‘patriotic’ is the job of a propagandist, not an independent journalist.
Mamba was quoted in a news report in which he criticised the survey African Media Barometer (AMB) Swaziland 2007, recently published by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) – Swaziland Chapter.
Mamba told the Weekend Observer that the AMB report had said that Channel Swazi is co-owned by Mamba with King Mswati III. The report then gave him space to criticise the report more generally. The Weekend Observer then enlisted Vukani Maziya, the chief executive officer of Swaziland’s only other television station, the government-controlled Swazi TV, to join in criticism of the report.
The newspaper interviewed nobody from MISA, the publisher of the AMB report.
Nor, it would seem did the Weekend Observer reporter bother to read the AMB report itself because the AMB report doesn’t say that the king co-owns the station.
What the report actually says is that Channel Swazi is ‘privately owned “on behalf of his majesty”’.
As I wrote on 24 January 2008 Swaziland is not a democracy and the government on behalf of the monarchy keeps a strong control of broadcast media. However, in 2001, in an effort to mislead the outside world that Swaziland allowed freedom of expression, the government allowed Channel Swazi, to begin operating within the kingdom.
King Mswati III supported Channel Swazi, because he wanted to show that his regime was democratic and respected human rights.
Now, Mamba has confirmed that his television channel will always support the king. With such a man as Mamba in charge of an ‘independent’ television channel the king doesn’t need to invest any of his own E1.4 billion (200 million US dollars) wealth on a television station when he has someone to do his bidding for him for no payment at all.
SWAZI MEDIA RIGHTS STILL RESTRICTED
DIRE OUTPUT ON SWAZI CHANNEL S