uch to
the delight of
the media fraternity,
defenders and
political activists, 2016 was not a year
of doom and gloom in Swaziland, as
positive developments overshadowed
negative ones.
Signs of the thawing of the usually cold
relations between government and media began to show during the period
under review. This can largely be attributed to the mission to the country by
the African Commission on Human and
Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa,
Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, and her
team from 7 to 11 March 2016.
After taking stock of the state of human
rights, Tlakula drew the attention of senior members of both the executive and
legislature to human rights violations
that were going unchecked in Swaziland and its population of 1,2 million
Armed with information obtained from
the media, civil society and trade unions, Tlakula enumerated these human
rights violations, among others, as the
criminalisation of freedom of expression, criminal defamation law, existence
of 33 media restrictive laws, lack of freedom of information, a ban of citizens
from state broadcasters, and failure to
liberalise the airwaves.
Commissioner Tlakula then proposed to


So This is Democracy? 2016

the media fraternity holding a National
Media Indaba in Swaziland intended to
raise awareness among media practitioners, legislators, government officials,
civil society actors and members of the
public of human rights-related issues,
focusing mainly on freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information.

Signs of the thawing of
the usually cold relations between government and media began
to show...
Responding to the team’s report, the
government conceded its failure to uphold and respect the Bill of Rights enshrined in the Constitution and hastened
to make promises to correct the situation
and meet compliance with regional and
international human rights instruments.
This was a cue for lawmakers to press
ahead with the suspension of the Ministry of Information, Communication
and Technology (ICT) in Parliament until
government lifted the ban on members
of parliament from having access to
state broadcasters. Influenced by MISA
Swaziland media literacy workshops,
the ICT Ministry Parliamentary Portfolio
Committee was behind the campaign
against the ministry. Facing the dire
prospect of a frozen budget and stalled
projects, the ICT minister finally capitulated and lifted the ban imposed three
years ago.

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