Courts clear ANZ Editor

via Courts clear ANZ Editor – DailyNews Live. 20 June 2014 by Tarisai Machakaire

HARARE – Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) Group Editor, Stanley Gama, has been cleared of criminal defamation charges after a Harare magistrate today said that the law under which he was being charged had been declared illegal by the constitutional court.

ANZ are publishers of the Daily News, the Daily News on Sunday and the Weekend Post.

Gama and senior writer Fungi Kwaramba were in court following a report filed by controversial businessman Kamal Khalfan over stories linking the Omani citizen to alleged underhand deals in Zimbabwe.

Magistrate Milton Serima removed Gama, Kwaramba and the company’s finance director Zweli Sibanda from remand after they applied for referral of the case to the Constitutional Court, whose full bench ruled last week that criminalising defamation was excessive and unconstitutional.

Yesterday’s ruling appeared to stun Khalfan, who remained rooted to his seat after the order.

Serima ruled that there was no basis to refer the matter to the Constitutional Court on a matter that had already been dealt with by the Constitutional Court.

“Assessing the submissions made by both State and defence counsels, the Con-Court has already made a determination that outlaws criminal defamation,” he said.

“There is no need to refer the matter to the Con-Court, neither is there need to keep the accused persons on remand.”

The highest court in the land ruled that any person who felt defamed should seek civil remedies and called for the scrapping of criminal defamation laws.

“It is not necessary to criminalise defamatory statements,” the Con-Court ruled last week. “Accordingly, it is inconsistent with the freedom of expression guaranteed by (the) constitution.”

ANZ’s lawyer, Advocate Zvikomborero Chadambuka instructed by Gilbert Machingambi had applied for the matter to be referred to the Con-Court for a determination on the constitutionality of the offence.

State prosecutor Venancia Mtake opposed the application claiming that the accused persons had infringed the complainant’s rights to private and public dignity by publishing allegedly defamatory articles.

Khalfan is the major shareholder in Catercraft, among other businesses, and has
separately sued the Daily News for a whopping $10 million in a civil suit related to the same matter in the High Court.

In January, the Daily News carried stories on how businessmen such as Khalfan were using their influence and political connections to introduce dodgy investors to President Robert Mugabe.

Gama welcomed the ruling and paid tribute to the country’s judiciary.

“This is yet another victory for media freedom and that of speech generally in the country. Credit must be given to the men and women on the Bench for working judiciously to affirm the rights of all Zimbabweans, thereby strengthening our fledgling democracy.

“We hope this judgement will be a deterrent to the well connected and the powerful who abuse this archaic law to intimidate and silence journalists,” he said.