The members of the International Press Institute, meeting at their 63rd Annual General Assembly during the IPI World Congress on April 14, 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa, adopted by unanimous vote a resolution calling on the Swaziland government to release unconditionally the editor of the independent news magazine The Nation, Bhekitemba Makhubu, and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko. The arrests were in connection with separate articles each wrote that criticised Swaziland Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi earlier this year.
Makhubu and Maseko were first jailed on March 18, denied bail and held for 20 days before being released on grounds that the chief justice had no power to issue an arrest warrant. Three days later, on Wednesday, April 9, Swaziland police re-arrested the pair. This is the second time Makhubu has been prosecuted for his journalism. In April 2013 he was convicted and sentenced to two years in jail or a U.S. $20,000 fine for criticising the chief justice in 2009 and 2010 for, among other things, using the law to settle personal accounts. Makhubu is appealing this decision.
IPI members urged Swaziland’s government to respect the fundamental right of freedom of expression and the role of journalists to raise alternative perspectives in Swazi society.
IPI members also called on Swaziland authorities to take all necessary steps to ensure that in the future the country fully upholds its international obligations to freedom of expression. They further called on the government to repeal criminal defamation, insult laws and other laws that limit the free flow of information and independent media.