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Saturday, 27 March 2010

KING’S PAPER CENSORS OWN EDITOR

The following is from the Media Institute of Southern Africa, Swaziland chapter, concerning censorship at the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.


Friday, 26 March 2010


An attempt by the Board Chairman of the state-owned Swazi Observer newspaper Tim Nhleko to censor the paper backfired badly when the editor, who had been employed only a month ago, tendered his resignation in protest.


On the night of 21 March 2010 the Editor, Sifiso Dhlamini, was ordered by the newspaper chairman to withdraw a front-page story as the paper was about to go to the printing press. The story concerned a man, suspected to be an acquaintance of the board chairman, who had been recommended for employment as CEO of the Mbabane City Council, Gideon Mhlongo under unclear conditions.


Nhleko told the editor that the story would spoil the man’s chances of employment and ordered that the story be dropped. Grudgingly, the editor obliged but tendered his resignation the following day in protest. In desperation, the paper’s management quickly apologized to the editor with Nhleko admitting that he erred. He withdrew his order for the story to be dropped and told the editor to go ahead and publish it as he wished. The paper is yet to run the story.


Speaking to MISA-Swaziland, the editor said he was very happy at the developments. “I have been very hurt by management’s action. I felt my professional judgement was undermined. To me, this was an ordinary story that did not warrant any form of censorship. However, I accept the chairman’s apology and I am happy that we will now publish the story,” said Dhlamini.


Asked if he had withdrawn his resignation, the editor said that was still to be discussed with management.


MISA-Swaziland condemns the censorship attempt by the Chairman of Swazi observer and welcomes Dhlamini’s professional stance as victory for press freedom and hopes that other Swazi authorities will learn from this incident and refrain from censoring journalists.


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