‘LEGAL POLICY FRAMEWORK OF THE MEDIA RATHER CONDUCIVE’
…despite these guarantees, continued human rights violations by the state apparatuses against media workers, labour unions and political parties have attracted criticism from international freedom defenders’ organisations.
Lead researcher Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, in his assessment of media development in Swaziland, said there is a system of regulation conducive to freedom, pluralism and media diversity.
Hlatshwayo said the country is a signatory to a number of international instruments on human rights. He further said the constitution is based on the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHRP), Declaration of Principles of Freedoms of Expression in Africa (DPFEA)and the Windhoek Declaration.
Hlatshwayo further quoted the country’s constitution, noting that it contains a number of important provisions in Chapter III titled ‘Protection and promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms’, which in theory, protect the media, including publishers, broadcasters, journalists, editors and producers. Hlatshwayo further pointed that there are other provisions elsewhere in the constitution that assist the media as it goes about its work of reporting on issues in the public interest.
Hlatshwayo quotes Section 33 (1) (2) on sub-section (1) of the rights to administration justice that provides that ‘a person appearing before any administrative authority has the right to be heard and to be treated justly and fairly in accordance with the requirements imposed by the law, including the requirements of fundamental of function justice or fairness and has a right to apply to a court of law in respect of any decision taken against that person with which that is aggrieved.’
Hlatshwayo in his research further addresses Section 33 (2), which provide that ‘a person appearing before any administrative authority has a right to be given reasons in writing for the decision of that authority.’ This section protects journalists and the media from administrative officials who act unfairly or unreasonable by not complying with legal requirements.
In addition to the human rights provisions, Hlatshwayo said there were other sections such as the Parliamentary Privileges and Access to courts that assist the media in carrying out its duty.
Section 131 of the constitution entitles Parliament, to proscribe laws providing for immunities and privileges for the president , the speaker and
Members of Parliament to proscribe laws providing for immunities and participating in or reporting on the proceedings of Parliament.
The researcher further said under the public access to courts, Section 139 (4) of the constitution provides that the proceedings of every court shall be held in public except as may otherwise be provided in the constitution or as ordered by a court in the interest of public morality, public safety, public order or public policy. Hlatshwayo said this allows journalists to attend court proceedings.
Parliamentary Privileges Act of 1967 is a law that assists the media to report on the work of Parliament. It also allows journalists to report on parliamentary proceedings without facing arrest or civil proceedings for what they report.
Hlatshwayo further points out that despite these guarantees, continued human rights violations by the states apparatuses against media workers, labour unions and political parties have attracted criticism from international freedom defenders and organisations.
Hlatshwayo further highlights a report of 2009, Amnesty International where they expressed concerned over certain provisions of the Suppression of Terrorism Act No. 3 of 2008 threatening human rights, being inherently repressive and breaching Swazis’ obligations under international and regional human rights law and the local constitution.
National Commissioner of UNESCO Hezel Zungu.
NOTED: MISA Swaziland National Director Vuyisile Hlatshwayo.
USA Ambassador Lisa Peterson making points during the launch of the research.