Swaziland to ban Twitter, Facebook posts critical of King Mswati III


Swaziland, with a stagnant economy, rampant poverty and a soaring HIV rate, has caught the Jasmine contagion. King Mswati III, pictured here in 2008, is one of the world's richest royals. Despite the unrest, he isn't expected to go the way of Mubarak or Ben Ali.


Paballo Thekiso

JOHANNESBURG — Swaziland plans to make it illegal to criticize King Mswati III on Facebook and Twitter, in an apparent attempt to curb criticism of the king after a year in which he faced unprecedented protests stoked by the country's economic crisis.

A growing number of Swazis are frustrated with living under an absolute monarchy, the last in Africa, and are stepping up their demands for democracy. Fresh protests by labor unions and university students are planned for the next few weeks.

The proposed law, raised by minister of justice Mgwagwa Gamedze, is intended to "take its course on those who besmirch the image of the country and king" on social media networks, a Times of Swaziland report said.

More from GlobalPost: Swaziland: Opposition grows to King Mswati

Senator Thuli Msane first raised the issue, complaining about Swazis who are critical of the monarchy.

"It’s like the moment Swazi people cross the border to neighboring countries they begin to go on a campaign to disrespect their own country and king. Surely there is something that must be done with them. There must be a law that can take them to task," Msane said, according to the newspaper.

One online commentator wrote that while Swaziland's government is trying to protect the king's name, "I'm not sure if they do consider the fact that people say what they say because they care about their welfare, and they know that they have a right to talk."

"We really need democracy in Swaziland, freedom of speech," wrote Sakhile Dlamini.

More from GlobalPost: Swaziland: King Mswati challenged by economic crisis