Detained journalist to appear in Swazi court

Journalist and activist in jail for over 100 days for allegedly offending judicial system expected in court on Tuesday.

    Amnesty International have called the duo "prisoners of conscience" [AFP]
    Amnesty International have called the duo "prisoners of conscience" [AFP]

    Two men in prison for more than 100 days for allegedly offending Swaziland's judicial system are scheduled to make an appearance in court.

    Bheki Makhubu, editor of the Nation magazine, and Thulani Maseko, a human rights lawyer, will be appear in court on Tuesday.

    Both the accused are facing contempt of court charges after penning articles in which they questioned the chief justice's actions over the arrest of Bhantshana Gwebu, a government officer, for impounding a vehicle used by another high court judge, according to news reports.

    The duo, lodged in Sidwashini jail, north of Swaziland's capital, Mbabane, have denied the charges, saying they were merely asking for the rule of law to be respected.

    'Prisoners of conscience'

    Authorities say that the perspectives expressed by the two men were unfair to Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi and subsequently brought the judicial system into disrepute.

    Rights body Amnesty International has criticised the charges and their imprisonment, calling them "prisoners of conscience".

    Similarly, the Media Insitite of Southern Africa has also condemned the arrest and detention of the two men.

    "Arresting and charging journalists with criminal offences for doing their job is an unjustifiable restriction on freedom of expression," MISA said.

    On social media, activists in Swaziland and neighbouring South Africa called for the charges to be dropped, encouraging users to add more pressure on the Kingdom by following the #freethenation tag on twitter.

    On Tuesday, the country's High Court will hear submissions from the lawyers representing both sides.

    Maseko has been previously arrested, having been charged with sedition in 2009. The case was never brought to trial.

    In April last year, Makhubu, along with Nation magazine publishers, was convicted of "scandalising the court" following the publication of two articles criticising the judiciary in 2009 and 2010. Makhubu and the publisher were fined a total of E400,000 (approximately $45,000) by the Swaziland High Court.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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