A journalist jailed in Swaziland is getting some unexpected help from a class of journalism students at the University of Maryland who are taking up the cause of writers around the world currently in jail.
The students, led by their teacher, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Dana Priest, plan to launch a line of bracelets with the names of Bheki Makhubu and others behind bars in a fund-raising campaign for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Makhubu, the editor of the Nation magazine in Swaziland, was ordered to serve two years behind bars for writing and publishing articles critical of the Swazi judiciary. Also sentenced to serve time was human rights lawyer and fellow writer Thulani Maseko.
Last month, Maseko was tossed into solitary confinement after a letter he wrote from his cell thanking supporters was published on the internet.
As part of a project called “Press Uncuffed,” the students in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism are looking to produce 10,000 bracelets. Using the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, the students hope to manufacture and package the bracelets prior to making them available for sale on World Press freedom Day, on May 3.
Makhubu is one of nine imprisoned journalists from across the world whose name will appear on the bracelets.
“The last three years have been the worst on record for the safety of journalists covering news in many parts of the world,” said Priest, in a Merrill College news article. “The problem is getting worse, not better. With 221 journalists currently imprisoned, the funds raised through this campaign will help put pressure on the governments holding journalists in prison and raise awareness of the critical link between information and a free and prosperous society.”
Students hope to raise 30,000 dollars to make the bracelets out of clear acrylic as a symbol of the importance of transparency of information. They will be sold for 10 dollars each with funds designated for the NY-based CPJ.
Swaziland is also in the news for the recent forcible eviction of over a dozen families under orders of King Mswati III from a piece of land designated for a science park.
The “Royal Science, Innovation Park and Biotechnology Park” in Nokwane has been in the planning stages since 2010. Costs are estimated at 100 million dollars including roads, drainage, landscaping and the new buildings.