Information minister announces new censorship policy

New York, April 11, 2003—Recently appointed Minister of Information Abednego Ntshangase announced on Tuesday, April 8, a new censorship policy for state media in the southern African kingdom of Swaziland.

Speaking at his first appearance under his new portfolio before the House of Assembly, Ntshangase told parliamentarians, “The national television and radio stations are not going to cover anything that has a negative bearing on government.” Ntshangase warned that those who do not support government policies will be barred from broadcasting their views, the Integrated Regional Information Networks, a U.N. news service, reported.

The ban on negative content will apply to Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Services, which operates the only news-carrying radio channels in the country, and to Swazi TV, the country’s only television station. Both outlets are state run.

Ntshangase specifically indicated that state broadcasters will no longer be allowed to cover the controversy surrounding the government’s recent purchase of a luxury jet for King Mswati III, who has ruled Swaziland since 1986. Critics of the purchase note that it comes amid and AIDS crisis and at a time when almost a quarter of the population faces famine.

“This new policy is outrageous,” said Joel Simon, acting director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “The press has the right, and the obligation, to report on matters of public interest, even if coverage reflects poorly on the government.”

State censorship of the press in Swaziland is routine. In 2000, King Mswati III attempted to introduce a decree that would have made insulting state officials a crime punishable by a 10-year jail term.