|MISA Regional Governing Council chairperson Golden Maunganidze|
The Media Institute of Southern Africa has petitioned embattled Eswatini leader King Mswati III to address and put to halt violations against media freedom in the country after the shooting of two journalists at work in the kingdom.
In a letter dated July 6, 2021 written by MISA Regional Governing Council chairperson Golden Maunganidze and supported by 18 signatories from media freedom organisations on the continent, the King has been urged to ensure the safety of media practitioners in his empire.
“We, the undersigned press freedom and freedom of expression organisations, hereby write this letter to you to express our profound concerns with the increasing cases of media freedom violations in Eswatini.
“We are deeply worried by the turn of events in Eswatini and call upon the authorities to do everything possible to ensure that media workers are protected and are not subject to wanton attacks by security forces,” reads part of the petition.
The petition was written a week after two news reporters were shot by the police in the kingdom while exercising their duties with one sustaining serious injuries.
“This is grossly unacceptable and goes against the values that the kingdom claims to uphold,” further read the letter.
Maunganidze also took the opportunity to remind the emperor to respect his country’s constitution and the African Commission on Human and People’s rights (ACHPR) Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information to which his government is a signatory.
“We urge the Eswatini authorities to demonstrate their commitment and adherence to constitutionally guaranteed rights by allowing the media to operate freely without any harassments, assaults, threats or reprisals for doing their work.
“We are gravely concerned with the excessively inhumane and largely unreasonable responses by Eswatini security forces in dealing with media workers. The safety and security of journalists is of paramount importance to Eswatini, and it is imperative for your government to ensure that media workers are protected at all times,” read the letter.
The government of Eswatini pressed the panic button in the wake of protests by the citizens against the rule of Mswati which led to the government responding by cracking down on the protest by shutting down the internet.
MISA and other regional media freedom organisations made a number of demands to King Mswati III that included ensuring safety and security of journalists, desisting from the ban of internet services, filtering of internet messages, compliance with the constitution as well as adherence to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.