An official at the Qatar Embassy in Mbabane temporarily detained two senior Swazi Times journalists on Friday 4 October 2018 in what can only be described as a blatant violation of media freedom rights.
Senior Times reporter Welcome Dlamini and Business Editor Kwanele Dhladhla visited the Embassy for an interview with the Qatari Acting Ambassador to eSwatini, Yaqoub Yousuf Al Mulla.
The two journalists were conducting investigations into a story that involved Al Mulla. Reports say Al Mulla confirmed that he was involved in the said matter. Al Mulla, however, tried to persuade the two journalists to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Dlamini and Dhladhla refused to sign the non-disclosure agreement saying the story they were investigating was of public interest. The journalists tried to negotiate with Al Mulla by offering to publish the story without naming the diplomat or their country of origin.
The journalist’s offer was not acceptable to Al Mulla. At that point, the diplomat summoned Embassy security and ordered that the journalists should not be released before the signing of the non-disclosure agreement.
Al Mulla went on to call the eSwatini police in charge of the diplomatic section and reported that Dlamini and Dhladhla had broken into the Embassy because they had neither an appointment nor permission to be at the Embassy.
After a long standoff, Dlamini and Dhladhla were eventually released.
MISA Zimbabwe position
MISA Zimbabwe condemns the arbitrary arrests and detentions of journalists and reiterates that journalism is not a crime. In the past three months, MISA Zimbabwe has recorded at least four media violations against media practitioners in eSwatini.
Sadly, the perpetrators of the violations recorded thus far involve state officials and organs who should actually ensure that journalists perform their duties without hindrance. MISA Zimbabwe urges the eSwatini government to abide by and implement UN resolutions on the safety of journalists.
Regional Solidarity Statement