CPJ condemns Swaziland editor’s prison sentence

Cape Town, July 25, 2014CPJ is appalled by the two-year prison sentence, without the option of a fine, imposed today on editor of The Nation Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko by the Swaziland High Court in Mbabane. The pair was convicted on contempt of court charges on July 17, in connection with separate articles each wrote in the independent newsmagazine criticizing the kingdom’s chief justice, Michael Ramodibedi.

“A wise monarch listens to his subjects and to the criticism they raise in the interests of a just and harmonious society. Justice has been betrayed today,” said CPJ’s Africa Program Coordinator Sue Valentine. “Bheki Makhubu’s only crime was to express a point of view and to publish criticism of alleged abuse of resources by certain members of the Swazi judiciary. This sentence handed down today is out of all proportion to the charge.”

Makhubu and Maseko plan to appeal, according to Makhubu’s wife, Fikile Makhubu, and the South Africa-based Freedom of Expression Institute. Makhubu and Maseko were jailed and denied bail for the four-month duration of their trial. Makhubu also received a three-month suspended sentence for a previous contempt of court conviction handed down in April 2013.