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OPINION:Journalists in Parliament must advocate for Transparency and Accountability Act, court judgement that castrated the Times must be reviewed.

Friday, 10th November, 2023

The media in eSwatini cannot function independently and perform its constitutional duty to inform, while holding those in power accountable without the enactment of the Transparency and Accountability Act,alternatively,the Access to Information Act.

The matter between African Echo(Pty) Ltd trading as the Times of eSwatini and former Senate President Gelane Zwane who was unjustly awarded five hundred thousand Rands(R500,000.00) for alleged defamation is one of the many cases that castrated the media and these cases must be reviewed, corrected or set aside in the public interest.

In South Africa, the media is protected by various laws including the Constitution and public figures cannot easily win a case of defamation particularly on matters that are of vital public interest.Instead,public figures are expected to account to the public through the media.

Gelane Zwane was approached by a Times journalist for a comment but she was arrogant and refused to respond only to run to lawyers to file a lawsuit, fortunately, Judge Bheki Maphalala who was her Indvuna yeMcuba was an ally of the then Chief Justice(CJ) Michael Ramodibedi and Judge Nkululeko Hlophe, so she knew that “it was easy money” for her.

The circumstances surrounding this case always worry me, if this Swaziland News was registered in eSwatini, the public wouldn’t be receiving detailed investigative stories because lawyers would have long identified technicalities and colluded with corrupt Judges to shut it down.

In the terms of the law of defamation,any attempt to seek a comment or clarification by a journalist automatically becomes a valid defense that, there was no intention to defame, instead, the public figure is expected to respond to the questionnaire and state his/her side of the story.

But in the Gelane Zwane case, we saw the judiciary awarding a public figure five hundred thousand Rands (R550, 000.00) on the basis that she was defamed, when in fact the Times made efforts more than once to reach the then Senate President for a comment, I am sure that if the matter was before South African courts,Judges would have dismissed it with costs.

The lack of media freedom in eSwatini is worrying, the Times was targeted by the authorities, government and even by the judiciary and subsequently, the quality of the news was comprised.

The media must be allowed to be free and perform its constitutional duties to inform the public.

But then, we have four(4) journalists in Parliament in Marwick Khumalo, Welcome Dlamini, Alec Lushaba and Nathie Hlophe, these Members of Parliament(MPs), these journalists must influence the enactment of the Access to Information Act or the Transparency and Accountability Ac. These laws will enhance investigative journalism and assist the country in fighting corruption.

It is important to free the media and liberate all the publications in the country so that, the public can enjoy diversity of news through media pluralism.

OPINION:Journalists in Parliament must advocate for Transparency and Accountability Act, court judgement that castrated the Times must be reviewed.
MP Marwick Khumalo.