World Association of News Publishers

Protest Campaign - Swaziland, 3 April 2014

Protest Campaign - Swaziland, 3 April 2014

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The Right Honourable Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini
Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Swaziland
Mbabane, Kingdom of Swaziland

Fax: +268 2404 3943

3 April 2014

Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our serious concern at the arrest of an editor and a human rights activist and the behind closed doors summary legal proceedings brought against them.

According to reports, human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko was arrested in his law firm offices in Mbabane on 17 March. Nation magazine editor Bheki Makhubu was arrested on 18 March, though police had reportedly raided his home the previous day. Both men have been charged with contempt of court relating to two articles that appeared in the Nation magazine and were critical of the arrest of Bhantshana Gwebu, who is facing an otherwise unconnected contempt of court charge.

The charge alleges that Mr Maseko and Mr Makhubu undermined the dignity of the High Court by publishing “malicious, contemptuous statements” about Mr Gwebu's case. Mr Maseko and Mr Makhubu were expected to appear in open court on the morning of 18 March, but were taken to a private hearing in the Chief Justice's chambers, contrary to constitutional guarantees. The defendants’ lawyers were initially denied access to their clients, there was no discussion of bail and the accused had no opportunity to defend themselves. Mr Maseko and Mr Makhubu were remanded in custody, with an open court hearing on 25 March further extending their detention.

We respectfully remind you that detaining Mr Maseko and Mr Makhubu is a clear breach of their right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international agreements, including Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also disregards our organisations’ Declaration of Table Mountain, which calls for greater press freedom in Africa and, in particular, the repeal of criminal defamation and insult laws across the continent.

We call on you to do everything possible to ensure that Mr Maseko and Mr Makhubu are immediately released from prison and that all charges against them are dropped. We urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure that in future your country fully respects its international obligations to freedom of expression.
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.



Tomas Brunegård
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Erik Bjerager
World Editors Forum


WAN-IFRA is the global organisation for the world’s newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organisation groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2014-04-03 17:42

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In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...