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Swaziland to ban online criticism of Mswati

By , Journalist
Swaziland , 27 Mar 2012

Swaziland to ban online criticism of Mswati


Swaziland`s government is finalising censorship laws that will ban its citizens from criticising King Mswati III on Twitter and Facebook.


Officials in the landlocked African country want to outlaw online criticism of the king, after protesters took to the nation`s streets in 2011 to demand democracy and a solution to the nation`s deepening financial problems.

The United Nations this week released a report saying that Swaziland faces a fiscal crisis in addition to persistent poverty, high unemployment and an HIV/Aids epidemic.

Last year, South Africa was preparing to loan $320 million to the kingdom to help ease its debt burden. But the deal stalled because Mswati rejected Pretoria`s demands for financial and political reforms, such as the unbanning of political parties.

Planned protests

Swaziland, which has a population of 1.3 million, has a low Internet penetration rate. Only 95 122 people have access to the Web, and there are just 54 220 Facebook users, according to Internet World Stats. Yet, this is not stopping the country`s government from cracking down on online dissent.

Mgwagwa Gamedze, Swaziland justice minister, said in an address to the country`s senate that the government is to get “tough on those who write bad things about the king on Twitter and Facebook”.

Swaziland senator, Thuli Msane, said the government is finalising a law that will criminalise statements and posts on social networking sites insulting the country`s ruler.

Meanwhile, labour unions and university students in Swaziland are reportedly planning to protest against the new laws in the coming weeks.

Limited freedom of expression has long been an issue in the small country, as international human rights watchdog, Freedom House, has said “self-censorship is widespread [in Swaziland], as journalists are routinely subject to threats and attacks by the authorities”.

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