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MBABANE – Government will continue to maintain a strong grip on SBIS radio for fear of political opportunists.

This was made clear by Minister of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Dumisani Ndlangamandla in response to calls to delink Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Services (SBIS) and Swazi TV from government. He said the mediums were there to serve, primarily, the interests of the State.

Members of Parliament (MPs), during the recent portfolio committee debates in Parliament for the various government ministries, expressed to the minister the need for the State mediums to be turned into public broadcasters. 

Manzini North MP Jan Sithole, who raised this matter, said currently, the mediums - which are the biggest in the country - are only operated the way the State wanted. “They only cover news which the State wants covered and they are not open to the public as they should, yet they are run with taxpayers’ money,” said Sithole.

The MP also raised concern about the silent censorship of politicians by the State media, since no MP is ever interviewed or shown on TV.
However, Sithole was reminded that the House of Assembly, about three weeks ago, resolved to form a committee which would work with the minister towards regaining access to the mediums by politicians. “It’s hard to be silent about it, though because it’s a burning issue,” said Sithole.
Matsanjeni MP Phila Buthelezi said SBIS Radio, for instance, was not primarily for its listeners.

He clarified that it was disappointing that news which one would expect a national radio station to run is not broadcast by the station. Buthelezi wondered how the editing of news went on in the station. “It is not about the substance of what is being said, but it’s about the person talking,” said the MP.

Meanwhile, the minister was unambiguous in saying that State mediums cannot be delinked from the State because it would be detrimental to the country.
He said indeed there were plans for a merger of the stations and they would, to some extent, operate as a unit. He also highlighted that the option of turning the stations into public broadcasters was something that would have to be debated in parliament.

The non-accessibility of State media has been a talking point in the 10th Parliament of late, as it is dawning on many new MPs the pain of not being able to address their constituencies. They have to get someone to speak on their behalf.

The Public Service Announcement (PSA) policy regulations were effected during the Ninth Parliament to discourage MPs from campaigning on State media. It never cut off access to the media per se, but it brought about red-tape processes that must be fulfilled first.

Comments (1 posted):

Laura Norder on 19/08/2014 21:21:31
It is in the interests of the State to have a free press that is able to openly question government policies and activities. Freedom of Expression is in the Constitution. The minister confuses "government" a small which should serve the people and "the State" which is the people. He does not act in our interests but in his own.

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