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Security forces threaten to disrupt media workshop

(MISA/IFEX) - On 3 December 2008, state police stormed a MISA training workshop for media personnel and threatened to disrupt it if they were not allowed to monitor it.

The two-day workshop on media management was held in Matsapha, outside Manzini, the second city facilitated by SAIMED (Southern African Institute for Media Entrepreneurship Development), from Botswana, in partnership with MISA (Media Institute of Southern Africa) Swaziland chapter.

Plainclothes security officers arrived and demanded to be allowed to monitor the discussions. MISA Swaziland's Information Officer, Michael Motsa, who was on the ground, explained to the police that the workshop was open only to media personnel who included editors and marketing managers.

Motsa further explained that the workshop was neither political nor infringed any statute law of Swaziland as it was educational and aimed at only equipping the participants with managerial and marketing skills for their media houses. He said he saw no reason why it should be monitored by the police.

After a 10-minute discussion, the police backed down and left promising to come back if their seniors insisted on them sitting in during the workshop. However, they did not return for the rest of the day.

The workshop, which was not advertised, involved a few media senior personnel and it was arranged through email and telephone contacts. In a statement, MISA Swaziland National Director, Comfort Mabuza, expressed shock at the police action to threaten a professional training workshop. He said this underscored the government's frustration at the growing dissenting voices on the ground such that they can even regard lobby groups like MISA as threats to state security.

Mabuza said the police action amounted to plain harassment as it was not based on any statute law. He appealed for tolerance and restraint from the government.

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