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Journalists assaulted by correctional officers

(MISA/IFEX) - On 21 September 2009, four Swazi journalists were attacked and assaulted by a battalion of Correctional Services warder recruits as they covered a political demonstration in Matsapha near Manzini, Swaziland's second biggest city.

The journalists, from both the "Times of Swaziland" and the "Swazi Observer" newspapers, were not only assaulted but also had their cameras taken and destroyed in one of the worst incidents of violence against journalists in Swaziland.

A report in the "Swazi Observer" stated that the battalion of about 200 warder recruits pounced on the journalists, assaulted them, pulled a female journalist by the hair and confiscated their cameras. The officers then tried to delete the photos from the cameras and when they failed, they then destroyed the expensive gadgets.

The attack occurred during a political demonstration in which members of the banned People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) celebrated the acquittal of their President, Mario Masuku, who had earlier on in the day appeared in the High Court on charges of terrorism.

During the incident, PUDEMO activists were also heavily assaulted by the warders and the President of the party's youth wing was severely assaulted and had to be admitted to hospital with serious injuries.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland chapter has condemned the attack and assault of the journalists and has called on authorities to investigate the matter with a view of taking action against the offending officers.

Attacking and assaulting journalists is not only a criminal offence but is also a serious media violation that constitutes an attack on press freedom, MISA noted.

In a statement, MISA has called for restraint by the authorities and respect for journalists whilst executing their duties.

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