via Prosecutors to consider defamation case against the Daily News – DailyNews Live by Tenday Kamhungira 10 APRIL 2014
The criminal defamation charges being levelled against the Group Editor of Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publishers of the Daily News, Stanley Gama, and senior writer Fungi Kwaramba have been referred to the Prosecutor General’s office for consideration.
The two were arrested on Monday and spent three hours at Highlands Police Station where they signed warned and cautioned statements before being released.
The investigating officer later in the day phoned to advise Gama and Kwaramba to report to the magistrates’ court this morning.
This followed a report filed by controversial businessman, Kamal Khalfan, over stories linking the Omani citizen to alleged underhand deals in Zimbabwe.
Renowned Harare lawyer Alec Muchadehama, who is representing the two scribes, accompanied the pair to the Harare Magistrates’ Court yesterday, where the matter was due to be heard.
“The matter has been referred to the National Prosecuting Authority’s office for opinion and direction. They are going to seek the Prosecutor General’s opinion,” Muchadehama said.
Khalfan, who owns Catercraft among other businesses, has also sued the Daily News for a whopping $10 million in a civil lawsuit before the High Court.
Khalfan’s case has brought under the spotlight Zimbabwe’s controversial and draconian Criminal Defamation laws, which the government says it wants scrapped as they infringe on human rights.
Information, Media and Broadcasting Services minister, Jonathan Moyo, has already lambasted powerful and well-connected individuals who use the police to arrest journalists in cases which he says should be resolved at the civil courts.
“We have previously placed on record that in our view criminal defamation is not only outdated and incompatible with the values and ideals of the liberation struggle with respect to human rights and freedoms but also, and more importantly, criminal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,” Moyo said on Monday.
He further said criminal defamation could not be sustained in the courts and consequently called for its scrapping.
“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,” he said.
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 when there was “real risk or possibility that it might be false in material” thereby risking causing “serious” harm to his reputation.
The Daily News denies the allegations and is defending the action.
Meanwhile, Gama and the Daily News’ Executive Deputy Editor Chris Goko were also called to the police on Wednesday to make further clarifications regarding another defamation case reported to authorities last year by maverick Bikita West legislator, Munyaradzi Kereke.
The questioning bordered around a letter purportedly written by Kereke to the speaker of Parliament, seeking immunity and protection to source information allegedly implicating former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono in various acts of fraud and financial impropriety.