(Freedom House/IFEX) - April 13, 2012 - Freedom House is deeply concerned by the ongoing suppression of civil liberties in Swaziland, where a planned pro-democracy protest was preemptively dispersed on April 12 through arrests and intimidation by police and military forces. According to media reports, at least 15 protest organizers were arrested and later released. The protest was supposed to take place in Coronation Park in the capital city of Mbabane, but as protesters arrived they found the park filled with armed security forces who turned them away and detained anyone who tried to enter. Roadblocks were set up to prevent protesters from coming in from other cities. Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini ordered a ban on all protests in the country, which is ruled by King Mswati III, the last absolute monarch in Africa.
Swaziland is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2012 and Freedom of the Press 2011. Political freedoms and civil liberties have been on the decline in recent years following major crackdowns on the political opposition and pro-democracy groups. In 2010, an opposition leader was arrested merely for saying the name of his political party, Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), in public. In recent months, the government has been working to enact a law that would make it illegal for citizens to criticize the King on Facebook and Twitter.