MBABANE: The Eswatini Editors Forum has come out to clarify that Martin Dlamini, the Managing Editor of the Times of Eswatini never boycotted the private meeting with Her Royal Highness Princess Sikhanyiso, the Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) Minister.
In a public statement, Jabu Matsebula, the Secretary General of the media organisation said they were ashamed to be associated with the report published by the Times on Saturday where it was alleged that its Managing Editor ‘boycotted’ the meeting.
“It is not true that the Eswatini Times Managing Editor excused himself. While he did express his reservations over house-keeping issues that were not relevant for that meeting, he participated and was present in the meeting for more than 140 minutes. He was present and listened to the Hon Minister’s address. Subsequently, 5 editors spoke. Having listened to all of them, he also stood up and was the 6th speaker and addressed that meeting. Unfortunately, he did not address the issues that were discussed but concerned himself with tangential external issues” read the statement in part.
The Secretary General said it was true that the issues discussed during the meeting with the Minister were of public interest adding that this was normal in the journalism profession.
“Editors routinely attend meetings in which issues of public interest are discussed. In fact, they welcome opportunities for background information. That a meeting is closed or off the record would normally not disturb a journalist since there is always a standard professional remedy for returning issues discussed in closed meetings to the public domain” ,he said through the statement.
Martin Dlamini, the Managing Editor of Times of Eswatini who doubles as King Mswati’s Speech Writer was quoted by his newspaper confirming that he ‘boycotted’ the meeting with the Information Minister after learning that the issues discussed were of public interest and cannot be discussed privately.
"The reason I asked to be excused from the closed session meeting was because I am of the strong view that the matter to be discussed was a burning national issue that the media could not address with Government behind closed doors”,said the well known editor when quoted by his newspaper.
Reached for comments, Zweli Martin Dlamini, the editor of this Swaziland News said there was nothing wrong with the meeting between the Minister and the editors but emphasised that regardless of who they engage with in their line of duty, journalists must remain independent and act in the public interest. He said under normal circumstances, such meetings are meant to discuss public issues and give journalists an understanding of Government's position on that particular issue.
"We regularly hold private meetings with politicians and influential people including international organisations. For example, I once wrote an article about the MPs trip to the People's Republic of China where a move to oust Taiwan was allegedly discussed, thereafter, I was invited by the Chinese Ambassador in Pretoria for a private meeting. We first had private engagements where he clarified some issues before conducting an exclusive interview, such meetings are meant to give the journalist a clear understanding and disseminate accurate information.But my meeting with the Chinese Ambassador did not cloud me not to interact with Taiwan Ambassador because of their diplomatic tensions, as a journalist I talk to both of them and try to be independent in my reporting. Journalists must know that their mandate is to act in the public interest regardless of who they meet, not even Sikhanyiso should tell a journalist what to write. As for Martin, the Times editor, he could have found another way of regaining the public's trust than to scandalise a meeting of editors with a politician knowing very well that all editors internationally hold such meetings" ,said the editor.
Times editor Martin Dlamini