Nearly six in ten people surveyed in Swaziland said they supported the need for freedom of the media.
The number supporting freedom had increased by 6 percent since 2013.
The figures were contained in a report from Afrobarometer released on Tuesday (3 May 2016) to coincide with World Press Freedom Day.
People were asked whether the media should have the right to publish any views and ideas without government control. A total of 57 percent of people of people asked agreed or very strongly agreed with the statement. This placed Swaziland 13th out of 36 African countries surveyed.
Media in Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, is heavily censored. The Swazi Government controls the main television channel and all radio that broadcasts news and information. One of the kingdom’s two daily newspapers is in effect owned by the King.
A separate report from Freedom House, also released on World Freedom Day, concluded that media in Swaziland are ‘not free’.
Afrobarometer, which produces reports by social scientists working together across Africa, concluded that support for free media in Swaziland had increased by 6 percent since it last surveyed opinion in 2011 – 2013.
The report suggested that 64 percent of Swazis interviewed believed the media should continually investigate and report on government mistakes and corruption. This placed Swaziland 27th out of the 36 African countries surveyed.
In its report, Afrobarometer said, ‘Investigating government mistakes and corruption is seen as a critical role for the media.’ It asked people in Swaziland how effective were the news media in the kingdom in revealing government mistakes and corruption. A total of 55 percent of people questioned said it was ‘somewhat / very effective’.
A further 34 percent said it was ’not at all / not very effective’. A total of 11 percent responded, ‘don’t know’. This placed Swaziland 22nd out of 36 African countries for ‘media effectiveness’.
Afrobarometer suggested that changes in the ‘perceptions of media effectiveness’ had improved in Swaziland since the last survey in 2011 – 2013. It reported there had been a 6 percent increase in perception.
When asked whether news media abused its freedom ‘by saying things it knows are not true’, 33 percent of people surveyed in Swaziland said ‘often or always’. This placed Swaziland 16th out of 36 African countries.
Afrobarometer reported that 4 percent more people surveyed in Swaziland thought the media abused its freedom compared to the survey undertaken in 2011 – 2013.
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