(en)Swaziland: political interference in non-coverage of May Day

sage (jesse@tao.ca)
Thu, 8 May 1997 20:08:07 -0400 (EDT)

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------- Forwarded Message Follows ------- Date: Thu, 8 May 1997 17:21:59 -0400 (EDT) From: ifex@web.net (IFEX) To: allaction@web.net Subject: Swaziland alert Cc: safricaactions@web.net

IFEX- News from the international freedom of expression community _________________________________________________________________


8 May 1997

Media union claims political interference in non-coverage of May Day celebrations

SOURCE: Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Windhoek

(MISA/IFEX) - The Swaziland Media and Printing Allied Workers Union (SMEPAWU) claims that Swazi Television (STV) failed to cover May Day celebrations in Mhlambanyatsi area due to "possible political interference." SMEPAWU president Lwazi Hlophe stated that it was strange that STV failed to cover the event when there had been earlier indications that it would be covered. "I spoke to the news editor on the eve of [May] Day and he assured me that he would personally cover the May 1 celebrations after finishing a recording with the minister of information, Muntu Mswane," Hlope told MISA, adding: "I don't know what happened later, whether the minister told the editor not to go, or the editor decided this on his own."

STV management has denied this. STV acting manager Mike Cornwell told MISA the failure to cover the event was due to the May Day holiday itself. "Neither daily newspaper was published on May 1 and [does] not publish on any public holiday...whereas STV journalists generally fill the news gap left by the print media. Workers Day seemed an appropriate public holiday to allow them [time off]. At STV we do not have a large news department and the few who man it work long shifts and enjoy few privileges," Cornwell explained. He further denied press reports quoting him as blaming some journalists for the failure to cover the event. "I was misquoted when the `Times of Swaziland' said I did not know where our journalists were. I knew they were at the [May] Day celebrations and were attending as workers as is their right to do so," he said.

Previously, in February, Swaziland cabinet ordered a blanket ban of the state-controlled radio and television broadcasters from covering a country-wide labour strike. The ban had reportedly been effected under Section 12 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, 1997, which bans all materials likely to "incite the public against the government". Workers at the state-owned Swazi television told MISA that, on 22 January and 5 February, live talk show programmes related to the strike were prevented from being broadcast on Swazi Television (see IFEX alert dated 13 February 1997).

As well, on 21 April, the Swaziland government announced it was in the process of designing an editorial policy for all government-controlled media. However, the media said that the government's decision came shortly after reports that authorities had criticised Swazi Television for its full coverage of opposition Swaziland Democratic Alliance (SDA) demonstrations. The SDA demonstrated on 12 April against the 1973 Proclamation banning free political activity (see IFEX alert dated 2 May 1997).

For further information, contact David Nthengwe at MISA, Private Bag 13386, Windhoek, Namibia, tel: +264 61 232975, fax: +264 61 248016, e-mail: research@misa.org.na.

The information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility of MISA. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit MISA. _________________________________________________________________ DISTRIBUTED BY THE INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION EXCHANGE (IFEX) CLEARING HOUSE 490 Adelaide St.W., suite 205, Toronto (ON) M5V 2T1 CANADA tel: +1 416 703 1638, fax: +1 416 703 7034 e-mail: ifex@web.net, Internet site: http://www.ifex.org/ _________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________ Bruce Girard Agencia Informativa Pulsar Email: bgirard@pulsar.org.ec http://www.web.net/amarc/pulsar.html Fono/Fax: +593-2-501180 Fax en Montreal, Canada: +1-514-221-2009 Av. Atahualpa 333, Casilla 17-08-8489, Quito, Ecuador

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