When I was doing an internship with AmaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism in South Africa, my Supervisor Andrew Forest said, “Martin, don’t rush to be the first one to publish a story, conduct investigations, verify and publish quality news”.
He added “readers can wait for quality, as long as they know that once you publish, you will give them facts. When you finish this training, I want you to go back to Swaziland and change the face of journalism in that country”.
While doing the internship, I got to understand that actually, there was a funded program to train investigative journalists in the SADC region, however, only journalists from the captured media benefited from that program and some of us were sidelined because we were questioning corruption in the media.
The sabotage directed to me was systematic so that the captured media could then come back and claim that I don’t qualify to be a journalist, fortunately, international human rights organizations, after seeing a huge potential, facilitated my training in South Africa.
I am a former member of the Swaziland Editors Forum National Executive Commitee and I was removed after questioning corruption in the media.
The evidence suggesting that the captured media is corrupt is sufficient and this include bank transactions for corrupt journalists.
Now, the public is able to identify an independent and a captured journalist because there are various platforms where people receive uncensored information.
But regardless of the attempts to tarnish my reputation, the quality of my work will demonstrate whether I am a skilled, trained investigative journalist or not.
Indeed, the dynamics of the fourth industrial revolution suggest that the media must, at all times strive to report factual information to maintain public trust.
The truth is, online media has changed the face of Swazi journalism such that we are now seeing the captured media like the Times rushing to social media platforms to justify and clarify issues.
The tension between the captured and independent media will benefit the public because even the media will subscribe to the principles of accountability.
In the absence of the independent media, the Times would have ‘defamed’ William Pitcher with impunity but now they were forced to justify why they published that alleged false treasonous story.
A vibrant and independent media is the lifeblood of democracy but a captured media becomes a dangerous tool for dictators to oppress the people through misinformation.
When this publication emerged, there was a campaign pushed by the captured media to brand it a platform for fake news, we never justified ourselves but focused on our job, now the people are able to identify or differentiate between the captured and independent media.
It should be noted that we are now living in interesting times where the people have cellphones with cameras, they know exactly what is happening on the ground and no captured media can mislead them anymore.
Furthermore, this is a generation that seems determined to be freed from the hands of King Mswati, they are able to see any media that tries to divert their attention through misinformation.
The campaign by the captured media to brand our publication as a fake news platform expired immediately after this Swaziland News was recognized and endorsed by the public and reputable media organizations like the BBC, SABC, Voice of America, Mail and Guardian among others.
That’s the power of the truth, once you publish it, no matter the magnitude of lies and propaganda against it, it will stand.
This publication is not wanted by the King and his Government but because Swazis and the international community want it to exist, it is the fastest growing online publication with over two million(2 million) readers on the website, about 200 000 on Facebook and over 40 000 Twitter followers.
It is the Swazis who supported this publication by providing information, international organizations provided resources and now it is worth millions within five(5) years of establishment.
The power of the people suggests that even if this publication is hated by the Government, it will stand because the people want it to exist.
Therefore, no amount of propaganda will ever triumph against the truth.
Swaziland News editor Zweli Martin Dlamini with AmaBhungane journalists.