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Journalist attacked by singer over critical stories

(MISA/IFEX) - On 7 May 2011, a reporter with the "Times of Swaziland", Timothy Simelane, was attacked and assaulted by a gospel singer who accused the journalist of writing "bad stories" about him.

The incident happened in full view of members of the public who were doing their evening shopping in Manzini, Swaziland's populous city. Though an assault case was opened with the police on the same night, the attacker, Mzwakhe Myeni, had yet to be arrested as of 9 May.

Narrating his ordeal, Simelane said he was shopping with his wife on the evening of 7 May when he was attacked. He said they came across Myeni at the same shopping complex and the singer started verbally abusing him, accusing him of writing bad stories about him.

"Myeni confronted me and asked why I was writing bad things about him and said he was poor because of me. He then ordered me to pay for the groceries he was carrying and I refused. That is when the physical attack ensued," Simelane was quoted as saying in a report published in the "Times of Swaziland".

The reporter said after Myeni promised to sort it out, Simelane was forced into Myeni's car in a kidnap attempt. The journalist, however, managed to slip from Myeni's clutches and rushed to safety. Before he could reach the safety of his car, however, Simelane was tripped from behind by a pursuing mob comprising Myeni and a group of his friends, who then joined the singer in attacking the journalist.

In the ensuing skirmish, the journalist was kicked and punched by his attackers while he lay helplessly on the ground. Simelane later managed to free himself from his attackers and dashed to his car. But his attackers did not give up, even pursuing him as far as the Manzini police station, where the journalist opened an assault case against the singer. Simelane later drove himself to the hospital, where he was treated and discharged.

Speaking to MISA Swaziland from his home, Simelane said he had been told by the police that the case was expected to be heard on 10 May at the Manzini magistrate court. But he could not understand why Myeni had not yet been arrested for the offence.

MISA Swaziland has condemned the attack on Simelane, particularly by religious people who are supposed to be preaching against violence. MISA appeals to the police to arrest and bring Myeni to justice to set an example to others like him who perpetrate violence against journalists.

MISA believes that journalists should be allowed to do their job without being intimidated, threatened, harassed, beaten or even killed and that their profession should be given the respect it deserves, as they have a critical role to play in society.

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