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Journalists barred from attending meeting on legislators' pay

(MISA/IFEX) - On 29 October 2008, Swazi journalists were kicked out of a meeting in which the newly-elected and appointed Members of Parliament discussed their pay. The journalists had been allowed to cover the earlier discussions, but when the legislators began to discuss their pay, the media was shown the door.

Clerk at Table, Ndvuna Dlamini, who was chairing the proceedings, told the journalists that they would not be allowed to cover the part in which the parliamentarians would be discussing their salaries. The journalists were then asked to leave the meeting.

The meeting had been called to orient the new parliamentarians about parliament procedures and code of conduct. The 95 MPs and senators are each expected to receive in excess of E25,000 (approx. US$ 2,000) per month in salaries, excluding sitting allowances.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland chapter views the expulsion of the journalists from the MPs' meeting as a serious violation of the public's right to know and freedom of the press. The MPs will be paid from the public purse and the public had a right to know on how much the MPs would be getting from the public funds. Therefore, the action to expel journalists from such a session was uncalled for. MISA-Swaziland expresses concern at actions, by public or private bodies that undermine the fundamental principles of freedom of information which the Swazi constitution guarantees. MISA hopes to soon engage parliamentarians on the role of the media and issues of the public's right to know and access to information.

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