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Journalists censored ahead of press conference with King Mswati III

(MISA/IFEX) - On 27 August 2008 Swazi journalists were heavily censored by government officials as they prepared to interview King Mswati III on his return from abroad.

Journalists gathered at the King's palace for the King's press conference were told what to ask and that each journalist would be allowed only one question. They were told that the line of questioning should not deviate from issues pertaining to the King's official trip.

"You should not even ask the King about the weather of where he comes from because he does not have time for that as he has many national duties to perform and also he left those countries some time ago," warned Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mathendele Dlamini.

This came amid anticipation that the King was going to be asked about government's extravagant spending on the country's 40/40 celebrations to be held on 5-6 September 2008, marking the country's 40th independence anniversary and the King's 40th birthday celebrations.

The King was also expected to be asked about the extravagant spending by his own family following a recent 10-day shopping spree in Europe by nine of his 12 wives using public money. The wives together with their children and royal entourage chartered a flight to go on a shopping spree in Europe and Asia in preparation for the 40/40 celebrations. The trip by the King's wives resulted in unprecedented demonstrations by 1,000 women who demanded answers from government on the blatant abuse of public funds.

Fearing that the King would be embarrassed by the journalists' line of questioning, the authorities decided to censor the media.

This was not the first time journalists have been censored by the royal courtiers.

The latest act of censorship has confirmed a recent study by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Swaziland chapter, which found that the Swazi media was heavily censored, particularly by the monarch.

While MISA Swaziland condemns the latest act of censorship by the royal courtiers, the chapter is planning advocacy activities targeted at the King's court to mitigate against the continued censorship of the Swazi media.

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