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Swaziland19 November 2008

Attorney general warns outspoken journalists they could be arrested for “supporting terrorism”

Reporters Without Borders condemns the attorney general’s threatening remarks to journalists on 17 November. He said journalists who criticise the government could be arrested under a new anti-terrorism law that has just been used to crack down on opposition groups.

“In a country already under King Mswati’s tight control, the government has clearly decided to step up the pressure and leave no room for any form of criticism,” Reporters Without Borders said. “After the political opposition movements, it is now the turn of journalists to be directly targeted by a senior official under the facile and phoney charge of terrorism. This sort of intimidation is intolerable.”

Attorney general Majahenkhaba Dlamini warned on 17 November that journalists critical of the government could be viewed as supporting terrorists and could be arrested under the Suppression of Terrorism Act, which provides for sentences of up to 25 years in prison.

“If you appear to be supporting terrorists in your reporting, woe unto you,” Dlamini warned.

Both the Swaziland Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and the Swaziland National Association of Journalists (SNAJ) have condemned his remarks, pointing out that article 25 of Swaziland’s constitution guarantees free expression and press freedom.

“As long as whatever matter at hand is newsworthy and factual, we are going to report it,” SNAJ secretary-general Timothy Silemane said.

Four organisations, including the opposition Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), were banned on 14 November after being accused of being “enemies of peace, stability, security and national progress.” PUDEMO president Mario Masuku was arrested the next day for allegedly making statements in support of terrorism.

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