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eSwatini FoE Summit

In October 2022, we co-hosted a Freedom of Expression Summit with our partners, the Inhlase Centre for Investigative Journalism, in Manzini. One hundred individuals attended, representing every part of civil society. The meeting identified five priority areas for further action.In June 2023, we held a second summit, drawing about 150 civil society members, which assessed progress on free expression and democracy in the kingdom.

Download the report

Call to campaign against worrying new Intelligence Bill (GILAB)

If you haven’t seen the new General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill (GILAB), then you need to. It contains elements that will be of concern to all NGOs and religious organisations. Below is a summary briefing document and a more detailed information sheet dealing with the concerns sparked by the Bill’s content. It was approved by the Cabinet last week and is due to be tabled in Parliament any day now.

If this Bill goes through Parliament in this form, it will potentially have major consequences for NGOs and religious organisations. It is important that we lobby as strongly as possible to improve this draft.

We are convening a virtual meeting of NGOs and religious organisations to discuss this Bill and to explore forming a loose alliance of affected parties to work together on this. Please join us in this gathering at 10am on Thursday August 17, and pass on this invitation to affected parties.

Please RSVP to gilabsa2023@gmail.com by August 14 so that we can ensure that we can accommodate the numbers. We will send a link closer to the time to the RSVP list.

South Africa – FoE for All

Together We Are Louder. We have identified, and are working with, three communities who find their free expression under attack:

Cultural workers
In September 2022, we hosted a consultative meeting with creative worker organisations, who spoke strongly of the fear artists have of speaking out. Those who did were cut off from the state funding and support that many depended on. They lamented the politicization of appointments to boards of state cultural institutions in control of these funds. We have commissioned research into this problem and plan a campaign to address it, working with partner organisations in the cultural field.

Health workers
The suspension (later reversed through public pressure) of paediatrician Dr Tim de Maayer for writing an open letter on the conditions for patients in the Rahima Moosa Hospital highlighted the threats to public sector health workers who spoke out for their patients. Research has highlighted the inappropriate, outdated and possibly unconstitutional public service regulations that prevent health workers from addressing mismanagement, corruption and poor conditions in the hospitals. We plan to publish our research and launch a campaign to address these issues,  in partnership with the Progressive Health Forum.

Community-based organisations (CBOs) – Together we are Louder
At a pilot meeting in December 23 with about 20 Gauteng CBOs, they identified their frustrations with having their voices heard by the authorities, local, provincial and national. Together We Are Louder is our project to equip them to have their voices heard and with options and skills for getting the information they need and their concerns heard. This involves a manual, workshops and trainings.
Meeting report: 7 December 2022


Prevention of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill.
We have made submissions to parliament and are lobbying for improvements to this Bill.
Read: Submissions on the prevention and combatting of hate crimes and hate speech bill

UN Universal Periodic Review – We joined Amnesty International and four other partners to make submissions for the United Nations Human Rights Council review of South Africa’s human rights conduct.
Our joint submission

Companies Act. We made submissions on amendments to the Companies Act and await its consideration by parliament.

Legal Action

Karyn Maughan case: We have applied to be amicus (friend of the court) in the private prosecution of journalist Karyn Maughan in order to argue that this is a SLAPP case. We have been denied access, but are considering appealing it.

Landmark Foundation: We have applied to be amicus in the appeal of Botha vs Bool Smuts and the Landmark Foundation. The Foundation won a judgement that he was entitled to publish details of Botha’s treatment of baboons on his farm, and Botha has appealed.

SABC.  As members of the SOS Coalition, we are working on the independence and governance of the national public broadcaster.


Since the protests of July 2001, the eSwatini authorities have responded to the calls for democratization with severe repression. The country has seen growing violence in recent months. We work with eSwatini partners to highlight the lack of free expression and campaign for reform.


We are investigating the new Media Practitioners Act with a view to working with Botswana editors to challenge this new law, which threatens to introduce registration of journalists and a statutory media council. In 2022, we coordinated a regional delegation that successfully protested amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act which would have undermined the rule of law, particularly in relation to the work of journalists.

Media Defence

Through our agreement with Media Defence in London, we are identifying cases involving journalists working online which need financial and legal support.


SLAPP cases (legal suits which are designed maliciously to harass and threaten critics) are a growing regional problem. We will be working with partners to identify these cases, provide support for the targets and develop responses to it.

Monitoring and response

We monitor and respond to threats to and attacks on free expression across SADC countries