Eswatini Jumps 26 Slots in World Press Freedom Index

By Sizwe Dlamini

The Kingdom of Eswatini has jumped up 26 slots in the World Press Freedom Index, moving from position 111 to position 85 in just six months.

This information was shared by the Minister of Information, Communications, and Technology (ICT), Savannah Maziya, during a press conference held in the Ministry of ICT’s Conference Room.

The Minister stated that this significant improvement is a testament to the government’s efforts to create an environment that promotes and protects press freedom.

 “It is a great honour to be celebrating this momentous milestone in our journey towards nurturing a free and independent press in Eswatini. I am elated to share the remarkable news of our country’s leap in the World Press Freedom Index, conducted by Reporters Without Borders. As most of you here are aware, Eswatini has advanced from position 111 to 85, that’s 26 slots up, with a global score of 58.31 in 2024, a rise from 52.66 in 2023. This significant progress is a testament to the government’s efforts to create an environment that promotes and protects press freedom”.

The World Press Freedom Index (WPFI) is an annual ranking of countries compiled and published by Reporters without Borders (RSF) since 2002. The Index aims to gauge the extent to which journalists, news organizations, and citizens are free to report on events within their respective borders.

According to the 2024 edition of the Index, Norway holds the top position, followed by Denmark and Sweden. Among African nations, Mauritania ranks highest at 31st place, with Namibia following closely at 32nd place. Conversely, Eritrea, a North African country, ranks lowest at the 180th position, trailing behind Syria (179th) and Afghanistan (178th). Notably, South Africa is positioned 36th in the 2024 rankings.

The Minister highlighted the words of Aung San Suu, reading the phrase “The independent press is the guardian of public interest.”

“Today, we would like to express our profound appreciation to the media and acknowledge the critical role it plays towards holding us accountable as we serve EmaSwati. Media freedom is a fundamental cornerstone towards the stimulation of innovation, socio-economic development, good governance, and the building of public trust. Media freedom ensures that we as the Government are transparent and accountable to the nation, shaping public discourse, and serving the interest of the public”.

The Minister emphasized that the significant rise in world media ratings reaffirms the government’s stance, through the Ministry of ICT, to pursue endeavors that support and promote a credible and independent press.

 “We believe that the developments witnessed within the media sector in creating an independent regulatory body that will oversee media practices, ensuring that the media operates freely from governmental authority is a step in the right direction. Such a move will enforce adherence to ethical standards and protect the editorial freedom of media houses”.

The Minister further pledged the government’s unwavering support to the professional growth of journalists in Eswatini.

 “We shall continue providing training on ethical reporting, so that our journalists are accurate and credible in their reporting, as we strive towards creating a robust media industry that is internationally reputable. The Ministry encourages media pluralism, diversity, and editorial independence, fostering a vibrant discourse essential in having diversified and multiple voices from all societal groups. The enactment of the Broadcasting Act, 2023, is evidence towards fostering an enabling environment for a free, independent, and responsible media”

The Minister added that the Ministry of ICT wanted the media to be their partners.

“We would want the media to be our partners in serving the nation. This is why it is so important that all media is supported, so it can thrive and be sustainable. Even when we do not agree, we should always work for the people of Eswatini’s best interest and not special interests”.

Press Freedom in Eswatini Still Elusive- Press Club of Eswatini

Despite the Recent Ranking Improvement the President of the Eswatini Press Club Timothy Simelane says press freedom in Eswatini is still elusive.

Speaking to this publication on behalf of journalists, the President of the Press Club of Eswatini, Timothy Simelane said that even though he may not be privy to the methodology used in the index, there were several incidents proving that press freedom is still elusive in Eswatini.

“Journalists are still threatened with lawsuits by those who can afford an army of lawyers, for exposing corruption and flagrant abuse of human rights. A journalist was beaten up for taking pictures during a funeral at Mbondzela in June, but no one was arrested. Some officials still regard journalists as intruders meddling in their affairs so the issue of press freedom is still illusive in Eswatini maybe will see improvements however as it stands we still have a long way to go”.

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