Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 25
Political Influences: 28
Economic Pressures: 26
Total Score: 79
Life Expectancy: 43
Religious Groups: Zionist [a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship] (40 percent), Roman Catholic (20 percent), Muslim (10 percent), other (30 percent)
Ethnic Groups: African (97 percent), European (3 percent)
Freedom of expression is severely restricted, especially regarding political issues or matters concerning the royal family. In the absence of a formal constitution or bill of rights, there are no legal protections for journalists and media workers in Swaziland. For example, there is no privilege under Swazi law for journalists to protect confidential sources. A controversial draft constitution provides for limited freedom of speech, but the king may waive these rights at his discretion. The 1938 Sedition and Subversive Activities Act bans publication of any criticism of the monarchy, and self-censorship is widespread, particularly regarding the king's lavish lifestyle. The Proscribed Publications Act (1968) also empowers the government to ban publications if they are deemed "prejudicial or potentially prejudicial to the interests of defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health." The law has been used several times in recent years to punish newspapers that criticized or embarrassed the monarchy.
The two major newspapers in circulation are the Times of Swaziland and the Swazi Observer. The Times, founded in 1897, is the oldest newspaper in the kingdom and the only major news source free of government control. Generally, the government withheld its advertising, a crucial source of revenue, from the Times. Despite being owned by a royal conglomerate, the Swazi Observer was shut down temporarily in 2002 because its editorial direction was viewed as too liberal. In July, two Swazi Observer journalists covering the funeral of a local prince were harassed and temporarily detained by security officials for providing "negative coverage" of the late prince. The Swaziland Television Authority is both the state broadcaster and industry regulatory agency and dominates the airwaves. There is one independent radio station, Voice of the Church, which focuses on religious programming. Broadcast and print media from South Africa are also received in the country. In 2003, the new information minister, Abednego Ntshangase, announced that the state media would not be permitted to cover anything that has a "negative bearing" on the government. The ban affects the country's only television station and news-carrying radio channels. The government does not restrict access to the Internet.
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