(MISA/IFEX) - In an incident that borders on intimidation, an editor who openly challenged the Prime Minister on the government's tendencies to censor the Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Services (SBIS) was covertly told to resign if he was not happy with government policy.
On April 1, 2011, Welile Dlamini, a long-time news editor at SBIS, challenged Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini on why the state radio station was told by the government what and what not to broadcast. This occurred during a monthly breakfast meeting between editors and the PM, which is also attended by cabinet ministers.
Dlamini said that at the station they were instructed to spike certain stories such as those about demonstrations by progressives and strike action by workers.
"But the PM says there is freedom of the press in this country. How come we are always told what and what not to broadcast at the station," Dlamini was quoted in local papers to have said. "We have a mandate to inform the public and when we ask you about the strike action it is because we want your side of the story. We know how to report on government at the radio station because we were taught how. We do not need to be told what and what not to report," he added.
The editor said because of such censorship the station was losing listenership because people were losing confidence in them. He warned that in future the government would have no one listening to them because no one would switch on the radio to listen to state propaganda.
In response, the Prime Minister said all media houses, including SBIS, had their own editorial policies, which editors have to work with. He said at times editors had to resign if they were not happy with editorial policies they are expected to work with.
MISA Swaziland congratulates Welile for his bravery in challenging the PM on censorship at the radio station. MISA hopes the editor will not suffer reprisals for speaking his mind.
SBIS has in the past been barred by the government from covering certain events. The latest ban concerned the national strike organized by teachers on March 18, 2011.
The station was also recently ordered by the authorities to stop broadcasting live transmissions of BBC programmes after one of the clips was critical of the Swazi government.