criticising or questioning those in authority, especially the King. Although, in theory, the Constitution is supreme over all other laws,
unwritten customary law wields enormous power in practice and
because Swazi Law and Custom is not codified, it cannot yet be
tested against the Constitution.
Section 268 of the Constitution states that the Constitution is to
prevail when in conflict with existing legislation. However, this does
not mean all laws that contradict the Constitution are automatically
nullified. There is a raft of laws restricting media freedom and freedom of expression that remain on the statute books (see 1.3). Only
when these laws are challenged in court, repealed or amended will
they cease to have an impact. As long as these laws remain unchallenged, “we are at sea.” For example, the Constitution protects
freedom of association and assembly, but the 1973 Proclamation
banning political parties has not been declared unconstitutional, so
there is much reservation and uncertainty about registering political parties.
The prevailing feeling is that there has been little real progress with
regard to protecting and guaranteeing freedom of expression and
media freedom because of the onerous list of limitations in Section
24 (3) of the Constitution, the failure to repeal or amend the laws
that inhibit these freedoms, the power of customary law and the
ruling elite’s reluctance to see the constitutional guarantees in action.
It should be noted that the Ministry of Public Service and Information is attempting to introduce new media laws, including freedom
of information legislation, aimed at reforming the media landscape.
Consultations on the draft bills are ongoing.


African Media Barometer - Swaziland 2007

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