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27.02.2012 South Africa

Axed Swazi newspaper editor flees to South Africa

By AFP
The newspaper is owned by King Mswati III.  By Jinty Jackson (AFP/File)
LISTEN FEB 27, 2012
The newspaper is owned by King Mswati III. By Jinty Jackson (AFP/File)

MBABANE (AFP) - The sacked chief editor of the Swazi Observer newspaper said Monday that he has fled to South Africa in fear of his life after receiving a tip-off that police wanted to arrest him on terror charges.

Musa Ndlangamandla, once a royal advisor to King Mswati III, who owns the paper, was fired in January after he published interviews with leaders of banned pro-democracy groups in his daily column.

"I am now on the police wanted list on trumped up charges under the Suppression of Terrorism Act," Ndlangamandla told AFP on Monday.

"Yes, I am scared, looking at the history of people who die in police custody," he said.

"However if it means I should die for trying to help fellow Swazis realise a better future and self-determination, so be it," he added.

Police officials could not be reached for comment.

The Suppression of Terrorism Act makes it a crime to promote the views of "terrorist organisations".

The People's United Democratic Movement -- the country's main opposition group -- is listed as such and its leaders were interviewed in the Swazi Observer.

"All my articles were balanced as I belong to no group and I interviewed all sides to a story," he said.

Ndlangamandla said uniformed policemen have visited the newspaper offices to confiscate his computer and documents.

The paper is one of Swaziland's two dailies, along with the private Times of Swaziland.

Mswati has faced growing criticism and unprecedented public protests over the last year due to a financial crisis that has pushed the kingdom to the brink of bankruptcy.

"Everyone can see that there are serious problems in the country and as citizens, we need to participate in speaking out against people and things that are detrimental to the welfare of the people," Ndlangamandla said.

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