The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) objects in the strongest terms to the conviction and sentencing in Swaziland of Bheki Makhubu, the editor of the Nation magazine, on charges of “scandalising the court”.
Mr Makhubu was sentenced to two years in jail, alternatively a R200 000 fine, after contempt charges were brought against him by Swaziland’s Attorney General Majahe-nkhaba Dlamini, over two articles dealing with the attitude of judges, including the Chief Justice, to the constitution.
The use of contempt charges to silence legitimate scrutiny of judicial conduct and attitudes will do nothing to secure the dignity and credibility of Swaziland’s courts. On the contrary, by seeking to enforce silence rather than to foster open debate, this judgement is more likely to engender doubt, criticism, and suspicion of Swaziland’s courts than it is to create respect.
We understand Bheki Makhubu will appeal the verdict and sentence, and we will work with other regional and local organisations to support him. We strongly urge the South African government and the African Union to more vigorously remind the Swazi authorities of the importance of a free press and open democratic environment.
Issued by the SA National Editors’ Forum (SANEF)