- A Swazi High Court Judge, has urged the Swazi media to speed up the process of self-regulation.
Justice Thomas Masuku said this while speaking at the MISA Press Freedom Award 2009 Gala Dinner held at Ezulwini Sun Convention Centre on 5 September 2009.
According to MISA, Justice Masuku said media self-regulation was absolutely critical in that it provided members of the public with a non-litigation forum to which aggrieved persons can lodge their complaints against what they may perceive as unfair treatment by the media.
“It would appear to me that this should not only be limited to ex post facto complaints. It would, in my view, be wise to have like the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) (in the UK) acting in an anticipatory function as well so that a person who is aware that a story he considers injurious to his dignity may lodge a complaint and it be dealt with expeditiously. I say this in full appreciation of the steep legal fees involved whenever the press have been hauled to court,” the Judge said.
He further spoke in support of the media against censorship which is rife in Swaziland newsrooms,saying censorship constituted a serious violation of freedom of the press “which is directly or indirectly provided for in many of our Constitutions within the SADC region”.
Justice Masuku also criticised the laws that seek to limit or impede press freedom in Swaziland, urging the media to lobby government for the repeal of these laws.
“It is beyond question or debate that there are certain laws, and I can certainly speak of my own country, that serve to limit or impede press freedom in a manner that appears to do violence to the rights accorded the media by the Constitution. Some of these restrictions are neither justifiable nor necessary. It is the responsibility of the press to lobby government for the repeal of these laws and if necessary to challenge the justifiability of these in appropriate fora. Besides these laws, there are other practices that appear to hinder press freedom and freedom of expression. I have observed that when some persons express views which may not be popular or acceptable within certain circles, these persons would be called in and told to toe the line. This, it would appear, also happens to news reporters. I am of the firm view that the Constitution needs to be applied fairly and if any person or body feels aggrieved by a report made, they should follow the channels laid down in law and take legal action in an open, impartial and level playing field,” added the Judge.
The MISA Swaziland chapter has assisted the local media to register the Media Complaints Commission (MCC) in an attempt to kick start the self-regulation process. Justice Masuku himself was nominated by the media and seconded by the office of the Chief Justice to chair the MCC, which is expected to be operational soon.
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