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TV cameraman harassed, camera confiscated

(MISA/IFEX) - Phesheya Sibiya, a cameraperson employed by the privately-owned Channel Swazi television station, was harassed and had his camera confiscated by a traditional group performing "sacred" rituals for King Mswati III.

The group, known as "Bemanti" or Water Party, who were on their way back from the sea where they had gone to fetch sea water for the king's power-strengthening rituals, pounced on Sibiya, grabbed his camera and held him hostage for three hours for allegedly recording their cultural activities.

The camera is still being kept at Buhleni Police station for unexplained reasons. The TV station has been ordered to apologize to the group before it will be returned.

Sibiya has denied having filmed the Water Party's activities. He told his accusers that he was pursuing a story about an alleged goat rustler at the homestead where he found the Water Party members gathered. As he prepared to introduce himself, members of the Water Party accused him of filming their activities. They went on to mock, rebuke and threaten him with assault before confiscating his camera. Sibiya was later released and sent away without his camera.

The following day Sibiya was called to Buhleni Police Station where the footage on the camera was played but no recording of the Water Party's activities was found. Still, the camera was held and Sibiya told to return with his bosses to apologize.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland chapter views this incident as blatant harassment of the journalist and an abuse of power by the authorities concerned. This week the chapter issued a statement calling for an end to the rising incidents of harassment among journalists.

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