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Church moves to ban several media outlets from reporting on leadership dispute

(MISA/IFEX) - On 10 February 2009, the Jericho Church, an indigenous Christian denomination, moved an application at the High Court of Swaziland to ban the media from reporting on the split that has rocked the Church as a result of a leadership dispute.

The Church wants to gag the country's two daily newspapers, the "Times of Swaziland" and the "Swazi Observer", as well as the privately-owned Channel Swazi television station. In a court application, Stephen Hlophe, a member of Jericho Church, claimed that media reports about the dispute have so far been confusing and that the media has reported in a manner which is offensive and which violates the principle of journalism of not reporting on matters that are still pending before the courts.

Hlophe said the media has the potential to cloud issues to the detriment of the ongoing court process. He added that a large portion of the media reports were based on a letter which in itself is clouded in controversy. The letter, published recently, was purported to have been written by the Swaziland League of Churches, which presided over the Jericho Church dispute, claiming that the dispute had been solved.

With regards to Channel Swazi, the Church wants the High Court to ban a programme set to be broadcast on 12 February, because it believes the station will continue to talk about the leadership dispute in the Church.

The cited media houses have yet to file opposing papers before the High Court decides on the matter.

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