It is very sad to note that despite efforts to enlighten political leaders about the State propaganda machinery, they still legitimize rumours in the traditional media.
After the death of human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko, propaganda was circulated on social media to divert attention from King Mswati, the main suspect.
The propaganda is pushed by State journalists who then call the political leaders for a comment to legitimize the rumours,as if they were giving them a platform to defend and dismiss the allegations.
What would happen thereafter, the false story would then be in the internet system of the mainstream media and could be cited by the Government,when denying the allegations before an internationally established Commission of inquiry that would seek to investigate the death of Maseko.
I am surprised that leaders of the MultiStakeholder Forum(MSF) who aspire to lead a country don’t understand how dictators manipulate the media to spread propaganda with an intention of influencing public opinion and divert focus from them as the main perpetrators.
State propagandists know that once you respond and dismiss the allegations,automatically,you are creating a debate, others would say, “there’s no smoke without fire” and the dictator who is killing civilians would succeed in doing damage control.
Professional journalists fully understand that they cannot just question a person based on social media rumours but evidence and or information sourced from credible online platforms.
As a member of the South African Press Council,an institution that regulates the media in South Africa, we are consistently trained on how to handle information circulating on questionable social media platforms.
In fact,the principle suggests that we must just ignore and refrain from legitimizing such platforms.
But in eSwatini,State journalists create fake accounts and online platforms on social media, spread false information and then,call unsuspecting political leaders for a comment just to legitimize the rumours.
The intention is to publish the rumors in an official internet system of the credible media so that those allegations can form part of the framework of debates.
Tinkhundla is a system of governance,before they assassinate political leaders,they established a media unit that deals with damage control.
As a result, if political leaders are still snoring and legitimizing propaganda through comments, Mswati will eliminate all of them and the State controlled media will drive the narrative suggesting that political parties are fighting among themselves.
Before King Mswati took me to court for writing critical articles against him,the Times of eSwatini ran a series of articles labeling me a ‘fugitive’,who was wanted for house-breaking and threatening to kill Lamgabhi Indvuna.
None of the articles recognized me as a journalist because the intention was to influence the international community that this man is not a journalist but a criminal who must be extradited to face the law.
Worth-noting,I was not just a journalist but an Executive member of the Eswatini Editors Forum(EEF), it was the international media that came-in and diffused the State propaganda against me.
Those articles labelling me a ‘fugitive’ were then printed by Mswati’s lawyers and attached in court papers,unfortunately,the State and the King learnt the hard way that they were not dealing with a media novice.
Again,when Government declared this editor and the Swaziland News as terrorist entities, the State controlled media ran with those stories, the intention was to influence an extradition.
Furthermore, the intention was to influence the international community and partners not to support this publication so that it can collapse.
One State controlled journalist who was leading the propaganda machinery was too excited after reading my Facebook post, he rushed to write a false story titled “Donors dump terrorist Zwemart”,again he learnt the hard way that I will no longer tolerate any ‘nonsense’.
In conclusion, let me warn political leaders not to underestimate the power of the State controlled media.
When you respond to social media unfounded allegations on such sensitive matters like the death of lawyer Thulani Maseko,then you must know that one day, that article might be used by the State to jeopardize international investigations.
The late human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko.