On June 14, 2020, an alleged member of an Eswatini opposition group sent threatening text messages to Welcome Dlamini, an assistant weekend editor of the privately owned newspaper The Times of Eswatini, over a column he had published in support of the country’s government, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, and a post on Facebook by Swazi Media Commentary, a local media blog.
On June 13, Dlamini published an opinion piece, “Multiparty democracy for who, for what?” in support of Eswatini’s system of government in which political parties are banned, as part of his weekly “Let’s Ponder This” column in the Eswatini News newspaper, the Times’ sister publication, he said. Eswatini was formerly known as Swaziland.
The following day, Dlamini received a threatening text message disputing that column and saying, “Stop lambasting progressives/political parties or else u will die,” according to Dlamini and a report in the Times of Eswatini, which CPJ reviewed.
Dlamini opened a case with police and said he had warned the sender that he would not take the threat lightly, only to receive another reply that he deserved to die, according to the Times of Eswatini.
Dlamini said that he had met the sender briefly in May, who had identified himself as a member of the People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), a banned opposition party. The person had told Dlamini that he wanted to discuss his writing, and the journalist had received texts critical of his writing since then, he told CPJ.
Pudemo Secretary-General Wandile Dludlu told CPJ via messaging app that the person who allegedly made the threat was not a member of Pudemo. “We actually denied and still do now, that the said person exists, or worse is a member of Pudemo.”
Dludlu said that Pudemo would not support threats against Dlamini or anyone else, and “wanted to get to the bottom of this story which we believe is most likely a whole made up story.”
Police spokesperson Phindile Vilakati told CPJ via messaging app that investigations were ongoing, saying, “There is a lead. Suspect will be apprehended any time.”
Times of Eswatini managing editor Martin Dlamini, who is not related to Welcome, told CPJ via messaging app that the paper condemned the threats and said that critics should contact the paper’s ombudsman’s office with complaints, but “not attack journalists for doing their jobs or columnists for expressing an opinion.”