via Mnangagwa defends criminal defamation law – DailyNews Live by Chengetai Zvauya 10 APRIL 2014
Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Justice minister, yesterday defended action that makes defamation a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment of journalists.
Parliamentarians accused authorities of tightening curbs on free expression in the wake of corruption exposes.
Parliamentarians condemned the arrest of Daily News group editor Stanley Gama and senior writer Fungi Kwaramba under criminal defamation laws, saying the statute was now archaic and outdated.
Gama and Kwaramba were arrested at the instigation of controversial businessman Kamal Khalfan over stories linking the Omani tycoon to alleged underhand deals in the country.
The arrest of the newsmen has been condemned by the media fraternity and other lawmakers.
Nelson Chamisa, Kuwadzana East MDC legislator, yesterday quizzed Mnangagwa why the State continues to apply the law selectively. Wary of the chilling effect that these provisions have on a Press wishing to raise legitimate critical voices, he expressed concern that the continued use of criminal defamation would further erode the already limited space for free expression in the country.
“We have witnessed the continuous use of Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Section 96 and we have realised the arrest of journalists from Daily News using this section. When are we going to see the removal of this section which is criminalising the journalism profession? This must be stopped,” Chamisa said to rapturous applause from other legislators.
Mnangagwa defended the use of criminal defamation laws, insisting that the law was here to stay despite constitutional provisions outlawing it.
“We have the criminal defamation law which we shall continue to use as it is part of our law,” Mnangagwa said. “Journalists must learn to be accountable and responsible for their actions and must be answerable. They can approach the Constitutional Court to have it struck down. Until they have done so, we shall continue to use it.
“These journalists expect government to be accountable without themselves being accountable and this is not the way we operate.” said Mnangagwa as a war of words between the minister and Chamisa over the matter ensued.