On 22 April 2010 the government of Swaziland announced that it had approved the contentious Media Commission Bill, 2007 which seeks to regulate the media by statute.
The Bill, as approved by cabinet on 20 April 2010, will, once it becomes law, prevent certain stories from being published by the media, empower government to close down unfriendly publications and media houses and license journalists.
A statement released by government Press Secretary, Macanjana Motsa, stated that the Bill will strive to be in line with the provisions of the national constitution in recognition of fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual and the protection of freedom of expression, which includes the freedom of the press.
The media stakeholders, including MISA-Swaziland, reacted with shock at government’s approval of the Bill which was rejected in its entirety when it was first proposed in 2007. MISA Swaziland immediately issued a statement condemning the Bill and the government’s action to approve it, calling on government to reconsider this move and allow media self-regulation to be concluded.
MISA Swaziland, along with the other media stakehoklders, also promised to fight the Bill all the way to parliament if government does not abandon it.
MISA expressed deep concern that the same government that has refused to register the Media Complaints Commission (MCC), a self-regulatory process which government has been backing all these years, is the same government that is coming with the contentious Bill.
The government has refused to register the MCC which the media proposed as self-regulation. On 16 April 2010 MISA Swaziland led a delegation of media stakeholders to meet the Minister for Information, Communications and Technology, Nelsiwe Shongwe, to seek clarity on government’s refusal to sanction the registration of the MCC. The talks are scheduled to be finalized within the next few weeks.
Source: Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)