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Senators threaten to charge local media with contempt of Parliament

(MISA/IFEX) - Senators in the Swaziland Parliament have threatened to charge the local media with contempt of Parliament following stories about an altercation between the Senate President and a Senator.

Senate President Gelane Zwane and Senator Ndileka Dlamini engaged in a verbal showdown on 30 March 2009 and almost came to blows. Senator Dlamini had confronted the Senate President, accusing her of undermining her in Parliament and threatened to manhandle her. She was restrained by other Senators before she could assault the Senate President. Their confrontation was all over the media the following day. However, the Senate President raised the issue on 15 April in Parliament and accused the media of having embarrassed her.

Senators supported her and called for the media to be punished for carrying the stories which, however, were not denied either by the Senate President or the Senators themselves.

The Senators urged those among their colleagues who have copies of the newspapers where the stories appeared to bring them to Parliament so that the offending media house(s) could be identified and charged with contempt of Parliament.

Although no specific mention of the offending publication was made, the Senators said the stories appeared in weekend editions.

However, the Senate President warned that the matter was sub-judice as it was being investigated by a Senate Select Committee. She then warned the media against reporting further about the matter.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland Chapter has condemned the threat against the media and called for the Senators to abandon their action as it infringed on press freedom, more so because the story has not been denied by those involved. MISA has also called on Parliament to desist from censoring the media.

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