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Government renews intentions to pilot a new media bill

(MISA/IFEX) - On 28 May 2009, the Swazi government renewed its intentions to pilot a Media Commission Bill that seeks to regulate the media by statute. Addressing editors during a monthly breakfast meeting in Mbabane, Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini said plans were afoot to re-launch the process to introduce a statutory regulation for the media. He said the proposed law will help strengthen the capacity of the delayed Media Complaints Commission (MCC), launched by the media in 2007 as a voluntary self-regulatory mechanism. The PM said trends the world over were that co-regulation now applied, adding that this is where general consumers of media information participate in ensuring vulnerable members of society, such as children and the elderly, are not abused through biased and unprofessional reporting.

He even alleged that MISA's Swaziland chapter was now supporting statutory media regulation, quoting out of context a recent statement by MISA Swaziland National Director, Comfort Mabuza, which called on Members of Parliament to support media self-regulation by passing a law that would compel media houses that do not subscribe to self-regulation to appear before the MCC when subpoenaed. The PM even said government was pleased by MISA's latest stand.

MISA Swaziland, which fully supports media self-regulation and has never subscribed to statutory regulation, has called a press conference to rebut the PM's statement and set the record straight.

In his statement, the PM also said the Media Commission Bill will be pushed along with five other bills that seek to level the media playing field in Swaziland. The five other bills include the Access to Information Bill, the Public Broadcasting Bill, the Film and New Media Bill as well as a Newspaper Amendment Bill.

The PM said the Minister for Information, Communications and Technology, Nelsiwe Shongwe, will soon launch further stakeholder consultations on these bills with a view to finalizing them before they are taken to Parliament for debate.


BACKGROUND:

Government introduced the Media Commission Bill in 2007, along with the five other media bills. The Media Commission Bill was, however, instantly rejected by media stakeholders in favour of media self-regulation. This led to the launch of the MCC in May 2007. However, the MCC is not yet operational due to delays in registering it as a Trust as required by stakeholders.

Whilst rejecting the Media Commission Bill, MISA Swaziland along with other media stakeholders have endorsed the five other bills as they are progressive and seek to improve the media landscape in Swaziland. MISA Swaziland has only suggested changes in certain clauses in all the bills in order for them to comply with international requirements and trends.

MISA's only concern has been the delay in completing the consultations before taking the bills to Parliament for debate.

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