Swazi attack on press freedom is an attack on democracy

M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) strongly condemns the recent verdict reached by a Swazi judge finding journalist Bheki Makhubu and lawyer Thulani Maseko guilty of “scandalizing the judiciary.” The recent judgment is yet another blow to journalism and free speech in the country and further underlines the contempt in which the ruling Swazi elite holds independent voices unafraid to speak truth to power. Ultimately the ruling undermines the rule of law itself. 
Makhubu and Maseko have been routinely harassed and intimidated by Swazi authorities. Earlier this year they were arrested following a series of articles they had written critical of the Swazi Chief Justice’s conduct in attempting to bring contempt charges against a vehicle inspector who had ticketed his driver. After the charges were initially dropped, the journalists were re-arrested and detained for over 100 days. While sentence has not yet been handed down, they face potential prison sentences or large fines. 

More fatally, this ruling chills freedom of speech and further erodes press freedom in a country where censorship and self-censorship is the unrelenting norm. 

Judge Mpendulo Simelane’s ruling is quoted as saying “journalists think that just because they have the power of the pen they can write anyhow under the guise of the freedom of expression.” Yet in ruling against Makhubu and Maseko, the Judge affords the judiciary itself an immunity it patently does not deserve. 

AmaBhungane has long fostered collaborations between South African and Swazi journalists. We have hosted five  journalists from Swaziland publications since the inception of our internship programme in 2010.  Through it, we hope not only to transfer skills but ultimately to produce hard-hitting journalism that holds power here and in Swaziland, to account. 

Keep the powerful accountable

Subscribe for R30/mth for the first three months. Cancel anytime.

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.

Developing investigative journalism in the public interest. Digging dung. Fertilising democracy.

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Police were left dangling during July unrest, KZN top cop...

Whoever organised the unrest in response to the pending arrest of Jacob Zuma was responsible for the lethal violence that followed, the KZN police commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi said.

Urgent interdict filed to block Shell’s Wild Coast seismic survey

Shell’s 3D seismic survey is set to begin on Wednesday. But a high court application brought by rights groups to block it will be heard as an urgent matter on Tuesday

Police intelligence surprised by July unrest ‘modus operandi’

Minister of police only receives information from national commissioner that relates to him, commission hears

Sars appeals to ConCourt to keep Zuma’s tax secrets

The high court ruled banning the release of tax information was unconstitutional. Sars disagrees, saying is not only wrong but makes an exception of the former president

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…