The government of Swaziland has introduced a new law which could lead to a 10-year jail sentence for people publishing what they feel is ‘fake news’.
The kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch already has been labelled ‘not free’ by human rights groups.
According to reports by allafrica.com, government gazette has been published detailing the proposed law. The bill will be piloted by the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology which is headed by the King’s daughter, Princess Sikhanyiso.
The Times of eSwatini also reported that the bill states that any person who publishes any statement or fake news through any medium, including social media, with the intention to deceive any other person or group of persons commits an offence. On conviction a person would be liable to a fine not exceeding E10 million (US$600,000) or imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or both.
The new law also allows the courts to prosecute even Swazi nationals who live outside the country. It also covers a wide range of offences including spamming and cyberstalking. Cyberstalking includes making false accusations, defamation and identity theft.
The Swaziland government headed by King Mswati controls much of the mainstream media in Swaziland. Nearly all broadcasting is state-controlled and one of the only two daily newspapers in the kingdom is in effect owned by the King where censorship is near total.