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"Swazi Observer" editors suspended

(MISA/IFEX) - July 18, 2012 - On July 15, 2012, the Swazi Observer issued letters of suspension to its editor, Thulani Thwala, its weekend editor, Alec Lushaba, and the newspaper's chief financial officer (CFO) and senior manager, Mr. Nala Nkabindze. No explanation was given for the suspension.

Both editors have been suspended for one month and await the outcome of an investigation into the matter.

MISA speaks out

National Director of the Swaziland Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Swaziland), Comfort Mabuza, has condemned this development, branding it a clandestine action to silence the editors and prevent them from the informative and critical reporting that they are known to facilitate in Swaziland.

Mabuza said that their fearless approach in editing news and allowing the publishing of sensitive stories has been a challenge for the newspaper, which is controlled by the King through a Royal Trust.

MISA's Regional Director, Zoé Titus, expressed concern that the suppression of critical voices appears to be commonplace in Swaziland.

“Swaziland is facing serious economic hardships and there is a particular need for the Swazis to critically interrogate the actions of their policy makers. How can this happen when the media – the conduit for that information – is being muzzled?” Titus questioned.

Both Mabuza and Titus reiterated that whilst MISA does not condone inappropriate conduct by media professionals, media institutions – like all potential employers – are bound to act in accordance with international labour practices. In this particular instance, the Swazi Observer would have benefitted from proactive engagement with its employees, outlining clearly their alleged offences and making room for dialogue.

Titus noted that MISA is closely monitoring the conduct of the "Swazi Observer" management to ensure that the journalists have an opportunity to express themselves through a fair process, and to allay its own fears that there hides more behind this action than what the "Swazi Observer" is alleging.

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