Reporters Without Borders

Predators

Swaziland
Mswati III
King

With an HIV/AIDS prevalence of about 40 per cent, a soaring poverty rate and no viable economy, foreign investors have thrown in the sponge. Swaziland is self-destructing and if there is a single person to blame it is clearly King Mswati III. Lacking vision and management abilities, Africa’s last absolute monarch abuses his royal powers. He collects wives – he has 13 – and has amassed great wealth while the people struggle to survive. Political parties are banned, elections a charade in which only pro-government candidates take part.

The state-owned media only carry reports that have been checked and approved by the information minister. Independent journalists find it extremely hard to get access to official information. Self-censorship is standard practice and criticising the king is hard to imagine.

The authorities often remind journalists how to behave, warning those who criticize the government that they could find themselves “accused of supporting terrorism and arrested.” The government forced two journalists, Mfomfo Nkambule of the Times of Swaziland (the only privately-owned newspaper) and Mario Masuku of the Times Sunday, to stop writing their columns in 2009.

Against this background, there is growing anger and protests have been organized via social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Demonstrations in April last year and this year calling for the king’s abdication were ruthless put down. Several local and foreign journalists covering them were arrested.

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