Swaziland, officially the Kingdom of Swaziland, is a sovereign state in Southern Africa. It is neighbored by Mozambique to its east and by South Africa to its north, west and south. The kingdom of Swaziland is one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies. However, the power of the throne has not gone unchallenged. As an absolute monarchy, the country is currently ruled by King Mswati III who functions as the head of state and who appoints the country’s prime ministers and a number of representatives of both chambers, Senate and House of Assembly, in the country’s parliament. After some labor protests, a constitution was adopted in 2005 but this constitution does not clearly deal with the status of political parties and the media.
At – a – glance
Capital: Lobamba (Royal/Legislative)
Monarch: King Mswati III (since 1986)
Prime minister: Sibusiso Dlamini (since 1996)
Official language: Swazi, English
Population: 1.2 million (2015)
National Anthem: Nkulunkulu Mnikati wetibusiso temaSwati
Media & Freedom of Expression landscape in Swaziland
Constitutional rights to free expression are severely restricted in practice and can be suspended by the king. Publishing criticism of the ruling family and any member of his government is banned. In September 2014, the Swazi Observer, a state-owned newspaper, was forced to make an unreserved apology for reporting on what a princess wore without permission from the royal household.
Also, self-censorship is widespread, as authorities routinely threaten and attack journalists. The independent Times of Swaziland refused to publish a column about a politically sensitive trial in March and censored an article in June about the chief justice of the country. In July, human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu, editor of Swaziland’s The Nation magazine, were charged with contempt of court and sentenced to two years in prison after they published articles criticizing the country’s lack of judicial independence. In December, the country’s only privately owned news source, The Swazi News, came under threat after the Supreme Court awarded record libel damages to a government minister accused of lying about her birth name.
In Swaziland, there is a self-regulatory body of journalists and other media workers known as the Swaziland Media Complaints Commission (SMCC) which is mandated to regulate the operations of the media. However the autonomy of the commission is questioned. Also, there is the Swaziland Communication Commission (SCC) which was set up in 2013 to regulate the broadcasting sector. In the same vain, there is a chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) which is known as the Swaziland National Association of Journalists (SNAJ).
For more information on the state of freedom of expression and the media in Swaziland, visit Freedom House