Without bothering about police surveillance and disturbance, civil society
actors attended a one-day MISA Swaziland media literacy workshop at the Roman Catholic Caritas Centre at the end
of March. For the first time, they could
freely debate media issues on freedom
of expression, media freedom and access to information. They unanimously
agreed to collaborate with the media
fraternity in all campaigns for freedom
of expression, media professionalism,
and access to information, media-led
advocacy and liberalisation of the airwaves.
History was also made when government joined media practitioners, civil
society actors, political activists, diplomats and the public to commemorate
World Press Freedom Day on May 3,
2016. MISA Swaziland hosted a public
debate on the topic Locating freedom
of expression within the justice system.
Panellists were drawn from the media,
human rights defenders and the law society. The principal secretary in the ICT
Ministry delivered an inspiring speech
encouraging MISA Swaziland to continue organising media literacy workshops for the benefit of the citizenry,
decision-makers, lawmakers and media
The media fraternity scored a victory
when government heeded calls for the
reinstatement of journalism in the list
of priority areas sponsored by the Swaziland Government Scholarship programme in institutions of higher learning. Efforts by MISA Swaziland and its
media partners bore the desired fruits,
with aspiring journalists enrolled for
journalism at universities in Southern
Africa. The Ministry of Labour and Social Security, responsible for training,
had kept the programme on hold for five

To press government to liberalise the airwaves, the Swaziland Community Multimedia Network (SCMN) stepped up its
campaign for the issuance of community radio licences. It formed the Broadcasting Bill Committee (BBC) to lobby
legislators to speed up the process of
passing the Swaziland Broadcasting Bill
into law. In response to this campaign,
the Information and Media Development Directorate drafted the Swaziland
Broadcasting Bill of 2016. The ICT Ministry also issued two one-day provisional community broadcasting licences to
community radio initiatives in the year
under review.
To crown it all, there was a two-week
People’s Parliament held in the cattle
byre at the traditional headquarters,
Ludzidzini Royal Residence, in early
August 2016. Swazis from all walks of
life enjoyed their constitutional right of
free speech. The leadership and government were criticised for poor governance. Speaker after speaker called on
the powers-that-be to completely overhaul the non-partisan tinkhundla-based
system of government. At the end, King
Mswati III promised to implement the
people’s recommendations.
Notwithstanding positive developments,
2016 proved to be a mixed bag as there
were few noticeable negative developments in the media sector. The security
forces disregarded the royal command
to allow every Swazi access to the cattle
byre. As usual, they targeted journalists
covering the People’s Parliament. Journalists were refused entry into the royal
byre. The police also tracked down people who criticised the authorities during
the two-week People’s Parliament.
On the media front, the Swaziland Television Authority (STVA) struggled to
pay its staff members on time in the year
under review. The television station was

So This is Democracy? 2016


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