PUDEMO President Mario Masuku speaks on media capture



BY : ZWELI MARTIN DLAMINI

MBABANE Swazi main opposition leader Mario Masuku has called upon the international community to take action regarding the matter of captured Times of Swaziland editor Martin Dlamini who is on King Mswati payroll. The President of the People’s United Democratic Movement(PUDEMO) said now that the country have substitiative evidence that Dlamini was not a journalist but a State informant its significant for journalists both locally and internationally to disown him. The Swazi opposition leader was speaking to this publication after reports emerged that the editor has been benefiting huge monies of tax payers money amounting to millions after he was secretly engaged as a speech writer and a Correspondent for the King’s Office. Martin Dlamini receives travelling allowances that amonts to R80,000.00 per trip when travelling with the King and since his engagement he has benefited over R2million. But Masuku said it was not only the editor who has been captured by the State but the whole Times of Swaziland and it has been benefiting millions of taxpapyers money through adverts.“It is not only Martin Dlamini who is captured by the State but the entire Times of Swaziland as they has been receiving adverts amounting to millions from the government” he said.

It has been noted that since the newspaper was captured by the State PUDEMO and other political parties were systematically banned from receiving coverage but King Mswati enjoys and the government enjoys same and criticism immunity. In 2014, Martin Dlamini retracted a genuine story that exposed the theft of over R200million of public funds by the royal family as disclosed by then Finance Ministry Principal Secretary Khabonina Mabuza. This is contained in a report by the Media Institute of Southern Africa Swaziland “The media Barometer”. The PUDEMO President said as things stands, it seems an undisclosed relationship between the newspaper and the regime exist as the editor serves both masters well for now. Martin Dlamini works both as editor for the Times and King Mswati’s speechwriter and royal sources disclosed that he strateically deployed in the media as Liso LeNkhosi kubetindzaba(King’s overseer in the media industry). But Swazi journalists describe him as a spy for the King and that he normally attends meetings for the civil society not tp get stories but to collect infroamtion about what is being discussed about the regime for the intelligence unit.

“There must be undisclosed relationship between the Times Proprietors, the state and the man called editor. He serves both masters well for now” said the PUDEMO President. The Swazi opposition leader said members of the fourth estate should just disown the captured editor if the media wants to remain credible. “Martin sometimes represents the Swazi media at international level and it is not in the interest of the press to have someone linked to the regime disgusing as an independent scribe in the eyes of the international community. We wouldn’t like to deprive the public news but we cant be a conduit of censored news from a State informant. The Times is only independent on paper in terms of ownership, but the situation suggests that it was long captured. It is sustained by organs of the State through and through” he said.

Martin Dlamini when reached for comments earlier after allegations emerged that he was captured said he would have to look at the report before making any comment, however he later disappered. This was after more infroamtion emerged that he was not only receiving monies from the King but he became the first journalist in the world to be honored with a medal by a Head of State. Royal sources revealed that Dlamini was awarded by King Mswati for protecting his interests in the media and that of government.

On another note, a recent report by the United Nationa Educational Scientic and Cultural Organisation(UNESCO)concluded that the media in Swaziland was in crisis. The report quoted Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civil Organsations(SCCCO) Director, Lomcebo Dlamini saying the independence of the private media was not only compromised by political pressure but “brown envelope” journalism where journalists accepts money and other benefits to hide information. In the same report, Vuyisile Hlatswayo,the National Director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa Swaziland said even in the private media editorial independence was compromised by editors and media owners with cosy relationship with government and major companies.

“The private media owners and editors ingratiate themselves with big corporations that reciprocate with handing out freebies to the editors and journalists. Such tendencies not only compromise the editorial independence of the media but also contravene Article 3(1) of the Code of Ethics for Journalists which states that: “Journalists should not accept bribes or any form of inducement to influence the performance of his/her professional duties” he said