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Journalists barred from covering workshop for legislators

(MISA/IFEX) - Journalists covering an HIV/AIDS workshop for Swazi parliamentarians were on 30 June 2009 kicked out of the workshop after MPs and senators expressed displeasure at their presence.

The parliamentarians asked the organizers of the workshop to expel the journalists because they wanted to learn freely without the presence of the media.

They cited a recent incident in which an MP was publicly embarrassed after he uttered a statement which was found to be improper during a workshop. The MP had suggested that people living with HIV/AIDS should be branded on the buttocks so that they could be easily identified by their sexual partners. The statement was picked up by the media and was widely publicized.

This resulted in the MP being forced by HIV/AIDS activists, both local and international, to apologize and withdraw his statement.

The parliamentarians said, stemming from that incident, they do not want to be caught off guard again making improper statements.

"We have no clue on issues of HIV/AIDS. We don't want to be caught making improper statements once again. We request that we be allowed to learn without the presence of the media," the parliamentarians said.

The National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA), which organized the workshop, obliged and asked the journalists to leave.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland chapter condemns this act by the MPs and NERCHA of censoring the media and calls on authorities to allow journalists to work freely without being harassed or censored.

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