Index 2024
85/ 180
Score : 58.31
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
Social indicator
Security indicator
Index 2023
111/ 180
Score : 52.66
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
Social indicator
Security indicator

Renamed Eswatini by royal decree in 2018, the former Swaziland is an absolute monarchy that prevents journalists from working freely and independently.

Media landscape

The government exercises total control over the broadcast media, including the only privately owned TV channel, which belongs to the royal family. Almost all media outlets are controlled, directly or indirectly, by Mswati III, the autocratic king in power since 1986.

Political context

The level of interference by the monarchy in news content is considerable, and the authorities do not hesitate to monitor journalists and infiltrate newsrooms. The Minister of Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) is none other than one of the king’s daughters. Mswati III’s speechwriter is also the editor-in-chief of the country’s oldest and most popular newspaper. In July 2022, the Prime Minister issued an order labeling the South African Swaziland News website and its editor-in-chief “terrorist entities”, after accusations of “inciting violence, burning public and state property, seizing state power and overthrowing the legitimate government”. In January 2024, the king again accused the editor of promoting the agenda of what he described as a terrorist entity, the Swaziland International Solidarity Forces (SISF). 

Legal framework

In the kingdom of Mswati III, any criticism of the monarchy is punishable by trial and heavy penalties. Dozens of draconian laws muzzle freedom of expression and information, and the judicial system is often used to undermine journalism. Under a proposed cybercrime law, the dissemination of "fake news" and information damaging to the country's image would be punishable by fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars and up to 10 years in prison.

Economic context

There is almost no viable way of producing independent news and information because the very existence of media outlets is conditioned on their support for the monarchy.

Sociocultural context

Self-imposed exile is the only option for journalists who want to express themselves freely. The all-pervasive culture of secrecy makes it difficult to access information. Most media outlets have also been heavily criticised for supporting the monarchy during violent pro-democracy protests in 2021.


Journalists are often arrested and subjected to violence. In February 2022, for example, the vehicle that delivers the Times of Swaziland, a daily newspaper that strives to maintain its independence, was hijacked and set on fire with the clear aim of scaring journalists. In 2021, two South African journalists were threatened at gunpoint and arrested during a protest. A year earlier, two news site editors were arrested and then forced into exile after criticising the king. One of them was tortured during his detention. In 2017, an investigative journalist fled to South Africa after receiving death threats in connection with an article about the king's involvement in a corruption case. His newspaper was shut down by order of the monarch.

Abuses in real time in Eswatini

Killed since 1st January 2024
0 journalists
0 media workers
Detained as of today
0 journalists
0 media workers

All posts

All posts