Swaziland: Mass media

Extracted from: Deane Stuart 2009 "Chapter 12: Swaziland" IN Denis Kadima and Susan Booysen (eds) Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa 1989-2009: 20 Years of Multiparty Democracy, EISA, Johannesburg, 475, 483.

The Swaziland media are overwhelmingly controlled by the state and used to advance the position and cause of the monarchy. The state owns one of the country's two daily newspapers, the Swaziland Observer, and its sister Saturday paper the Weekend Observer, as well as the radio broadcaster with the widest coverage, the Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Station and also the Swaziland Television Broadcasting Corporation, which eschews political content and focuses on entertainment. The private TV Channel Swazi is also strongly aligned to the monarchy. The private daily newspaper, The Times of Swaziland, is frequently critical of the government and has the highest circulation along with its sister papers the Saturday Swazi News and the Times Sunday. Among the smaller and less influential independent publications are Nation Magazine, a periodical news magazine, and the Voice.

With the exception of the Internet, the public and private media are tightly controlled by the Ministry of Public Service and Information. The Internet has become pervasive in the main urban areas and, though not yet fully exploited, has increasingly become a source of information outside of state control and critical of the government and the monarchy. There are also two small radio stations: Voice of the Church, and a community station. There is no code of conduct governing media reporting on elections or allocation of time to candidates in the state media (Joubert, et al 2008, 70-73; Karume 2004, 17-18; Commonwealth Expert Team 2003).

In 2003 contesting candidates observed that "there seemed to have been some collaboration to ensure that both the Swaziland Broadcasting Corporation and other privately owned broadcasting stations gave aspiring MPs equal access" (Karume. 2004, 17-18). A wide range of observations were made by stakeholders on the coverage by the media in 2008. Generally, it was felt that:

  • the media did attempt to keep voters informed, but did not recognise the role they should be playing as voter educators;
  • coverage by the print media was better than that of the broadcast media; and
  • coverage by public media was biased and the private media were censoring themselves and inclined to favour some candidates over others.

Only a minority felt that coverage was good and treatment was fair.

Code of ethics

Swaziland National Association of Journalists, Code of Ethics: [www] http://misaswaziland.com/snaj-code-of-ethics-2/ [opens new window] (accessed 8 Jul 2013).

Media websites

Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) - Swazilandhttp://misaswaziland.com/ [opens new window] (accessed 8 Jul 2013).

Swaziland Observer, [www] http://www.observer.org.sz/ [English; opens new window] (accessed 30 Mar 2010).

Times of Swaziland, [www] http://www.times.co.sz/ [English; opens new window] (accessed 30 Mar 2010).]


COMMONWEALTH EXPERT TEAM 2003 Swaziland National Elections 18 October 2003: Report, [www] http://www.thecommonwealth.org/shared_asp_files/uploadedfiles/%7B9C9C4FF0-8E15-40E4-98B1-138FE7A81FF9%7D_SwazilandNationalElections_report.pdf [PDF document, opens new window] (accessed 30 Mar 2010).

JOUBERT, P, MASILELA, Z & LANGWENYA, M 2008 Consolidating Democratic Governance in the SADC Region: Swaziland [PDF document], Johannesburg, EISA Research Report 38.

KARUME, S 2004 "Election Post-mortem", Election Update 2003 - Swaziland, Johannesburg, EISA.