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Pressure groups demand access to state media

(MISA/IFEX) - On 12 January 2009, Swaziland's pressure groups, comprising political parties, trade unions and other civic organisations, petitioned the prime minister, Sibusiso Dlamini, on a number of issues, including access to state media. Pressure groups are currently banned from state media.

In their petition, delivered after a march through the streets of Mbabane, the capital city, the organisations demanded that every citizen of Swaziland be allowed equal access to the three state media organisations, namely the Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Services (SBIS), Swazi TV and the "Swazi Observer" newspaper. They said the current ban imposed on progressive groups to access state-controlled media was unacceptable and violated the constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression.

The organisations further called upon government to ensure that the independence of these state-controlled media houses is guaranteed. They also demanded the return of two popular radio programmes in which members of the public were allowed to air their views on issues. The phone-in programmes were taken off the air after some members of the public raised issues which did not go down well with authorities.

MISA-Swaziland has consistently lobbied the government and managers of the state-controlled media houses to guarantee equal access to information for every citizen of Swaziland. MISA National Director Comfort Mabuza recently went on air protesting the scrapping of the popular phone-in programmes and calling for their return.

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