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"Swazi Observer" newspaper successfully challenges court decision restricting it from reporting on church leadership dispute

(MISA/IFEX) - On 20 February 2009, the semi-private "Swazi Observer" newspaper successfully challenged a High Court ruling which had restrained the newspaper from reporting on a leadership dispute in the Jericho Church, an indigenous Christian denomination.

The order, granted by Judge Stanley Maphalala on 12 February, was set aside by another High Court judge, Justice Mabel Agyemang, after the newspaper challenged it. Judge Maphalala had granted the order after the "Swazi Observer" had failed to appear in court to defend an application brought by the Jericho Church.

In papers submitted to the court, Susan Magamula, CEO of "Swazi Observer", explained that the newspaper was not in lawful default. She argued that the newspaper would have opposed the orders sought by the church had it been aware of the application against it.

Magamula explained that Stephen Hlophe, of the Jericho Church, served a cleaner at the "Swazi Observer" with the court papers. She, as the person in authority and in charge of the newspaper, was not served with the papers.

"Court process is served on my subordinates only in the event that I happen to not be in the office. However, on 10 February 2009, being the day on which the application was served (on the 'Observer'), I was in the office and it puzzles me why the respondent chose to serve the same on the cleaner," Magamula said.

She added that she found out about the order against the newspaper when she received a call from the company's attorneys.

Upon hearing Magamula's arguments, the judge set aside the previous High Court ruling against the newspaper.

The privately-owned "Times of Swaziland" newspaper, which had also been challenged together with the "Swazi Observer" by the Jericho Church, challenged the church's application and the case is now set for arguments before a full bench of the High Court.

Updates alert on the media ban called for by the Jericho Church:

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