(MISA/IFEX) - The High Court of Swaziland has set aside the extra-ordinary legal notice banning the "Nation" magazine from publishing and circulating in the country.
In his judgement on Friday 18 May 2001, Lordship Judge Jacobus Annandale felt that Minister of Public Service and Information Mtonzima Dlamini was wrong in issuing the blanket ban on the magazine.
Attorney General Phesheya Dlamini has since challenged the court's ruling and a notice of appeal was filed with the High Court. He claims the judge erred in the following respects:
1. By failing to find that the applicant, the "Nation" magazine, should have proceeded by the way of application for review, and/or;
2. By finding the Legal Notice as invalid and of no force, or;
3. By finding that the said Legal Notice should have contained more information that it did, and/or;
4. By finding that the appellant minister should have furnished reasons for his decision in the said notice.
"Nation" editor Bheki Makhubu told MISA that he is amazed at the delaying tactics employed by the government. The appeal effectively means that the magazine will not be published this week
as previously anticipated. "This is yet again an indication that press freedom is under threat in Swaziland," he said.
Meanwhile, the case of the "Guardian" newspaper will be argued on Wednesday 23 May 2001.
On 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, the government of Swaziland banned the print version of the "Guardian" newspaper from circulating in the country, accusing it of operating illegally as it did not fulfil all the requirements under the country's media laws. The "Nation" magazine was banned the following day.
Minister for Information Dlamini cited Section 3 of the Prescribed Publications Act of 1968, which gives his office unlimited powers to ban or suspend publications that do not conform with "Swazi morality and ideals."
Both the "Guardian" and the "Nation" are known to support democratic government in Swaziland; both are critical of the fact that King Mswati III has governed by decree since the suspension of Swaziland's constitution in 1973.
Following the closure and banning of the two publications, members of parliament demanded that the Media Council Bill be brought back to parliament for adoption.
The Media Bill was deferred about five years ago, when stakeholders felt it was a plan by the government to gauge the press.