Swaziland: Media workers protest against conditions at king's paper

A Media Workers Union of Swaziland protest demands justice for Swazi Observer workers. Photo via Peter Kenworthy.

Members of the Media Workers Union of Swaziland (MWUS) protested low wages, management intimidation and poor working conditions at the Swazi Observer.

Negotiations between the paper, in effect owned and controlled by absolute monarch King Mswati III, and MWUS had started in April. But no real progress has been made since they became deadlocked in June.

The union demands a 25% pay rise, for senior reporters to be allowed to join a union of their choice, an end to what it calls job promotion nepotism and intimidation of union-affiliated members, newly serviced cars that are safe to drive, proper medical aid and the resignation of the managing director.

A June MWUS statement said the Swazi Observer management countered by offering no pay rise. The papers' managing director said that management would “plant intelligence within all the departments of the company”, something that was condemned by the union as “threat and intimidating antics”.

There have been many previous indications that all is not well in the Swazi media. In 2009, Swazi Observer managing editor Mbongeni Mbingo nearly lost his job for publishing a piece on the king's fleet of luxury cars. He later wrote that “the press in Swaziland is largely expected to toe the line and be a lapdog not a watchdog”.

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