June 9, 2021
His Royal Highness
King Mswati III
c/o Your Excellency Themba Masuku
Acting Prime Minister
715 Government Avenue
Your Royal Highness,
Petition: Deteriorating press freedom environment in Eswatini
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) wishes to proffer its greetings and compliments to you.
MISA is a regional body advocating for the improvement and enjoyment of media freedom, freedom of expression, access to information and the protection of privacy rights.
Your Royal Highness, by virtue of this letter, we write to register and express our concern at the deteriorating media freedom and freedom of expression environment in Eswatini.
As captured in the Southern Africa Press Freedom Report 2019 – 2020, media freedom violations are on the increase in Eswatini. The report highlights the lack of enjoyment of the right to media freedom in Eswatini.
The findings of the Southern Africa Report are echoed by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) report for 2021 which reported that “harassment, intimidation and physical violence against journalists are all common and result in almost constant self-censorship”.
Your Royal Highness, as you may be aware, Zweli Dlamini, the editor of the Swazi News, has been forced into exile in South Africa. Eugene Dube, another journalist, has also been forced into exile in South Africa and is unable to practice his trade in Eswatini. Dlamini and Dube’s “crimes” have been to write articles deemed to be too critical of the King.
Your Royal Highness, we are also worried that the Monarchy has filed court papers in South Africa seeking to stop Eswatini publications from publishing stories on the King, his family and associates without their prior consent.
Such a lawsuit presents Eswatini and the King as intolerant to criticism and averse to being held to account.
As you are aware, Section 24 of the Eswatini Constitution promotes freedom of expression, but this right remains elusive for media workers in your country. In addition, the lawsuit filed in South Africa also flies in the face of this constitutionally guaranteed right.
With this petition, we remind you of the revised principles of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, which expressly calls on African governments to promote freedom of expression and of the media in their respective countries.
We urge the Eswatini authorities to demonstrate their commitment and adherence to constitutionally guaranteed rights by allowing the media to operate freely without any harassments, assaults, threats or reprisals for doing their work.
Your Royal Highness, we are therefore humbly requesting your esteemed offices to intervene in the cases against Dlamini and Dube and ensure that they are allowed back into the country to freely continue with their constitutionally guaranteed professional rights without hindrance.
Regional Governing Council Chairperson
cc: Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Chairperson His Excellency Dr. Lazarus Chakwera
cc: The Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Her Excellency Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax
cc: African Union Chairperson His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa
cc: ACHPR Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information- Commissioner Jamesina King
cc: UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression Irene Khan