Information, Media and Broadcasting Services minister, Jonathan Moyo yesterday lambasted powerful and well connected individuals who use the police to arrest journalists in cases which he says should be solved at the civil courts.
This follows the arrest yesterday of the Daily News Group Editor Stanley Gama and senior writer, Fungi Kwaramba at the instigation of foreign businessman Kamal Khalfan of Oman.
Find below the full text of the comments Moyo sent to the Daily News.
“Media inquiries suggesting that the editor of, and a reporter at, the Daily Newshave been or might be charged with criminal defamation have caused us some concern at the Ministry.
We have previously placed on record that in our view criminal defamation is not only outdated and incompatible with the values and ideals of the liberation struggle with respect to human rights and freedoms but also, and more importantly, criminal defamation is inconsistent with our new Constitution.
In this connection, we are of the firm view that a criminal defamation charge cannot be sustained in the courts and should therefore be removed from our statute books in order to align the law with the new Constitution and to avoid wasting of police resources and time over a matter that has no constitutional basis.
The idea that powerful interests or individuals in our society find it easy to invoke criminal defamation against the media using the police is not only unconstitutional, it is also not in the public interest not least because the poor never ever invoke criminal discrimination against anyone.
This does not mean anyone has a right to lie but that defamation is better handled through civil and not criminal litigation in accordance with our new Constitution which in section 63(5) makes clear that freedom of expression and freedom of the media do not include malicious injury to a person’s reputation or dignity”.
Accordingly, I hope constitutionality will prevail and that therefore the matter in question will not go beyond the inconveniences already suffered by all those concerned.”