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Critical journalists could be viewed as "supporting terrorists" and arrested, warns attorney general

(MISA/IFEX) - On 17 November 2008, Swaziland's Attorney General, Majahenkhaba Dlamini, warned that journalists who report critically against the government would be viewed as supporting "terrorists" and arrested.

"If you appear to be supporting terrorists in your reporting, woe unto you," Dlamini told journalists.

The warning comes in the wake of growing tension in Swaziland following the government's move to deal strongly with political dissent. The government has outlawed political activities and popular forms of free expression such as marches and demonstrations. Civic and political activists have been arrested under the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2008 on allegations of perpetrating acts of terrorism in the country. Political parties are banned in Swaziland, the last remaining absolute monarchy in Africa.

Four organizations, including the opposition Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), were banned on 14 November after they were branded as enemies of peace, stability, security and national progress.

The following day the government arrested PUDEMO President Mario Masuku, who has been charged with making utterances in support of "terrorism". The government action follows a recent call by King Mswati III to eliminate political activists in the Kingdom, whom he branded as terrorists.

MISA-Swaziland has issued a statement condemning the threats against journalists and also called for an end to the arrest, intimidation and harassment of government critics, saying this seriously undermines freedom of expression enshrined and guaranteed in the Swazi constitution. MISA-Swaziland notes that threats against journalists have the potential to instill fear in the already timid Swazi press.

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