When democracies start trying to silence brave journalism, be afraid:
Royal sex scandals rarely come riper. A government minister is caught in bed with the king’s wife – in fact, one of the king’s 14 wives. Ndumiso Mamba, justice minister in Swaziland, is forced to resign and could yet face much worse from King Mswati III.
But just about the last people to read this story were those in Swaziland itself. The censorious atmosphere in the tiny, impoverished kingdom contrasts with South Africa, where newspapers had a field day.
Such freedom is the envy of much of the continent. South African papers have repeatedly exposed bribery and corruption in high places, including a tainted multibillion pound arms deal investigated by the Mail & Guardian. President Jacob Zuma‘s business and romantic relationships do not escape scrutiny either.
But now South African journalists are facing their most serious threat since the persecution of the apartheid regime. The governing African National Congress is proposing new laws that would make it illegal to leak or publish information deemed classified by the government, with the offence punishable by up to 25 years in jail. The ANC wants to create a media tribunal to regulate journalists’ work.