SA NATIONAL EDITORS’ FORUM (SANEF) PRESS STATEMENT: Sanef condemns Swazi prince’s ‘death threat’
The SA National Editors’ Forum is shocked by the “death threat’’ issued by a Swazi prince who was reported at the weekend as threatening journalists who “write bad things about the country will die”. This was directed at journalists who have been critical of the conduct of the country’s leadership.
During a July 21 public forum called the Smart Partnership National Dialogue in Manzini, Prince Mahlaba, brother of Swaziland’s absolute ruler King Mswati III, was quoted as saying: “I want to warn the media to bury things that have the potential of undermining the country rather than publish all and everything even when such reports are harmful to the country’s international image. Journalists who continue to write bad things about the country will die.”
The prince also accused the media of peddling lies, saying: “It’s a fact that journalists earn their living by writing lies and if they do not write the lies then their source of livelihood is threatened and this is fact and beyond debate.’‘
The prince’s accusations against journalism about how they operate are outrageous and are contemptuously rejected, but the threat to kill journalists who write critically about the governance and leadership of the country is extremely menacing and designed to intimidate journalists and their publications. It cannot be tolerated.
Prince Mahlaba is a senior member of the highly influential royal advisory council, the Swazi National Council Standing Committee (SNC) and thus can be regarded as voicing a government view. It calls on Swaziland’s king and government to repudiate the prince’s view and in the absence of such an unequivocal statement will report the threat to the Southern Africa Development Community, the African Union and the United Nations. Swaziland is a member of all three bodies which put forward strong codes relating to the treatment of the media and media freedom for member countries to follow.
Sanef will call on those organisations to take appropriate action against Swaziland and, meanwhile, extends its support to its colleagues in Swaziland to stand up to this terror threat.
Sanef also expresses its concern about the influence this murderous threat will have on the Swaziland public in their conduct towards the media and calls on it to avoid attacking the media.