Swazi Authorities Should Drop Political Charges

Freedom House condemns the unlawful imprisonment of human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko and The Nation editor Bheki Makhubu and calls for their immediate release and the withdrawal of charges against them. The Kingdom of Swaziland must uphold the basic rights and freedoms of its citizens and put an end to its sustained campaign to suppress its citizens’ basic right to freedom of expression.

On March 18, Maseko and Makhubu were detained and indicted behind closed doors before being remanded in custody until Tuesday, March 25th when their bail application will be heard. They have been charged with contempt of court following the publication of an article in The Nation questioning the judiciary’s conduct against a government official.

These arrests, indictments and imprisonment constitute a direct violation of the Swaziland constitution’s section 21, which guarantees a fair trial and the section 24, the right to freedom of expression.

Maseko and Makhubu are both outspoken critics of the regime of King Mswati III and have been routinely subjected to harassment through the courts in the past. In 2013, Makhubu was convicted of ‘scandalizing the court’ for publishing articles that criticized the judiciary of Swaziland and in 2008 Maseko was charged with contravening the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act.

Swaziland is rated as Not Free in Freedom in the World 2014 and Freedom of the Press 2013.

Learn more:
Freedom in the World 2013: Swaziland
Freedom of the Press 2013: Swaziland
Special Report: Swaziland: A Failed Feudal State
Freedom Alert: Swaziland Ignores Rights of Free Speech and Public Protest
Blog: Freedom at Issue