Mbabane - Swazi King Mswati convicted newspaper editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko on contempt of court charges last week to strike fear into government critics.

This is the consensus of legal, good governance and human rights organisations approached for comment on the High Court’s conviction of Makhubu and Maseko for writing articles in Makhubu’s journal The Nation which had criticised the country’s chief justice, who was appointed by Mswati.

“This arbitrary decision makes a mockery of justice and deals a severe blow to freedom of expression in Swaziland,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F Kennedy Centre in Washington.

Santiago Canton, executive director of Robert F Kennedy Partners for Human Rights, noted: “A judicial system that is ready to deny freedom of expression to shield itself from criticism cannot legitimately claim to be administering justice.”

The Swazi press also printed calls from international organisations for the release of Makhubu and Maseko, but otherwise self-censored the groups’ criticisms of Mswati. - Independent Foreign Service

The Mercury