‘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.

Observer on Saturday - - News - By SiceloMaziya

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.

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