- Freedom of the press once again came under siege in Swaziland on 27 August 2008, when government officials heavily censored Swazi journalists as they prepared to interview King Mswati III on his return from abroad.
Regional media freedom advocacy group, MISA. reports that journalists gathered at King's palace for a press conference were told what to ask and that each journalist would be allowed only one question. They were told that the line of questioning should not deviate from issues pertaining to the King's official trip.
"You should not even ask the King about the weather of where he comes from because he does not have time for that as he has many national duties to perform and also he left those countries some time ago," warned Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mathendele Dlamini.
This came amid anticipation that the King was going to be asked about government's extravagant spending on the country's 40/40 celebrations to be held on 5-6 September 2008, marking the country's 40th independence anniversary and King's 40th birthday celebrations.
The King was also expected to be asked about the extravagant spending by his own family following a recent 10-day shopping spree in Europe by nine of his 13 wives using public money. The wives together with their children and royal entourage chartered a flight to go on a shopping spree in Europe and Asia in preparation for the 40/40 celebrations. The trip by the King's wives resulted in unprecedented demonstrations by 1,000 women who demanded answers from government on the blatant abuse of public funds.
Fearing that the King would be embarrassed by journalists' line of questioning, authorities decided to censor media, reports said.
This was not the first time journalists have been censored by the royal courtiers.
The latest act of censorship has confirmed a recent study by Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Swaziland chapter, which found that Swazi media was heavily censored, particularly by the monarchy.
Swaziland, the last remaining absolute monarchy has constantly come under screen by media and human rights groups for continually trampling on rights of expression as well as delaying a route that will give Swazi people a fair democratic stake in the running of their affairs.
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