via Daily News lawyer says defamation laws archaic – DailyNews Live by Tendai Kamhungira 29 APRIL 2014
Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) lawyer Alec Muchadehama, who is representing the company’s Group Editor Stanley Gama and Senior Writer Fungi Kwaramba, in a current court case says criminal defamation is both archaic and unacceptable in a democratic society.
The two journalists are facing criminal charges following a report filed by controversial businessman, Kamal Khalfan, over stories linking the Omani citizen to underhand deals in Zimbabwe.
ANZ are the publishers of the Daily News, the Daily News on Sunday and the Weekend Post.
Khalfan’s matter against the two newsmen failed to kick off on two previous occasions, before the journalists finally appeared before a Harare magistrate yesterday.
The two appeared in court with Company Secretary and Group Finance Manager, Zweli Sibanda, who was representing ANZ.
Muchadehama told magistrate Douglas Chikwekwe that he would challenge the two journalists’ placement on remand and apply for the matter to be referred to the Constitutional Court, on May 15, which is the next remand date.
“We intend to give notice to the State that on the next remand date, we will make an application for referral to the Constitutional Court in terms of Section 175 (4) of the Constitution,” Muchadehama said.
He said the section under which the journalists are being charged was ultra vires a section of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression and information.
Prosecutor Sharon Mashavira said it was the right of the suspects to challenge their placement on remand and proposed the release of the two newsmen on $50 bail.
However, Chikwekwe released the journalists on free bail and ordered to them to reside at the addresses they provided to the court.
The complainant, Khalfan, owns Catercraft among other businesses and has also sued the Daily News for a whopping $10 million in a civil lawsuit, related to the criminal case, in the country’s High Court.
This has brought under the national and international spotlights the country’s controversial and draconian criminal defamation law which media analysts, as well as Information minister Jonathan Moyo, say should be scrapped as it infringes on human rights.
With the law still in place, Khalfan — who holds a British passport and is the honorary counsel of the Sultan of Oman — accuses Gama, Kwaramba and ANZ of having published material which risked causing “serious” harm to his reputation.
The Daily News denies the three counts preferred against the two journalists and is defending the action.
In January, the Daily News carried stories on how businessmen such as Khalfan were using their influence and political connectivity to introduce investors to President Robert Mugabe.
Zimbabwe is awash with businessmen or fixers who arrange meetings with politicians and stitch deals together for multi-million dollar fees.
In some of the contested e-mails in the Khalfan case seen by the Daily News, a German national, Dietrich Herzog, requests that Khalfan — who claims in the e-mails to be politically-connected — assist him to acquire diamonds from top government officials using opaque methods.
Khalfan confirmed knowledge of both Dietrich and the e-mails at the time that theDaily News wrote the stories.