Stance on defamation law welcome

via Stance on defamation law welcome | The Financial Gazette 7 Nov 2013

The Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ) welcomes the historic ruling by Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court that sections of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act criminalising the undermining of the authority of the President and communicating falsehoods must be struck off, as they are unconstitutional.The ruling, which was delivered by Justice Luke Malaba, followed an appeal by Zimbabwe Independent journalists, Constantine Chimakure and Vincent Kahiya, on one hand, and visual artist Owen Maseko, all of whom had been charged under the Criminal Code.

Chimakure and Kahiya were charged under Section 31 for allegedly publishing or communicating false statement prejudicial to the State, while Maseko was charged under Section 33 for allegedly undermining the authority of the President through his paintings.

The full bench handed a unanimous decision with respect to Zimbabwe Independent journalists, while the order was given by consent of both parties with respect to Maseko’s case.

This landmark judgement came three days after Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Jonathan Moyo had said that government would soon strike off criminal defamation from the country’s statutes to align the law with provisions of the new Constitution that guarantee freedom of expression and freedom of the media.

MMPZ, alongside other civil society organisations (CSOs), has for long campaigned for the abolition of criminal defamation and repulsion of other restrictive legislation such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Public Order and Security Act.

These laws are not only inconsistent with the progressive nature of the new Declaration of Rights in our Constitution, but also violate regional and international instruments such as the African Charter on Human  and People’s Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which compels governments to promote and protect freedom of expression, association and assembly.

MMPZ has also continued to lobby against what appeared to be an abuse of defamation laws to settle political scores against government’s critics such as the private media, CSOs, and ordinary Zimbabweans, and ZANU PF’s political opponents.

Not only were such laws being selectively applied, but they were also discouraging journalists and the public from investigating and exposing malpractices in society such as high-level corruption.

MMPZ calls upon the government to immediately repeal the remaining pieces of legislation that impinge on Zimbabweans’ right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, in line with the new Constitution and regional and international instruments, which the government is signatory to.

The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, for instance, declares that: “No one shall be subject to arbitrary interference with his or her freedom of expression” and that: “Any restrictions on freedom of expression shall be provided by law, serve a legitimate interest and be necessary and in a democratic society”.

In addition to observing that freedom of expression “should not be restricted on public order or national security grounds unless there is a real risk of harm to a legitimate interest and there is a close causal link between the risk of harm and the expression”, the Charter urges all States to “review all criminal restrictions on content (and expression) to ensure that they serve a legitimate interest in a democratic society”.

MMPZ Harare



  • comment-avatar

    I believe that the public has a right to protection from criminal defamation as we do in public society – if any journalist states anything defamatory with out evidence to support it he should be jailed and we need to write to the minister demanding this.
    Our media ethics are the worst in the world, until there is media responsibility and we have journalists with ethics, we should tighten up legislation and create a deterrent to educate them in compliance with the law to protect us from them.

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    Jrr56 10 years ago

    If a journalist makes up a storey to defame another he should be sued for slander and if needed compensation given by a court order. The defamation law was used badly and in a partisan way and as such should be abolished. It has been used frivolously and should have only ever been used in civil court cases. The media in Zimbabwe is one of the most oppressed in the world and should not be allowed to be controlled by government.

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      Jrr56 You obviously don’t read zim newspapers.
      Why should a member of the public pay a lawyer to sue a journalist who thinks he is above the law? – police should arrest them and they should be locked up.

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    Lizi Nkala 10 years ago

    Very soon we will begin to see sick people drawing effiges of our leaders with their private parts hanging out. Remember the infamous “Spear” a sick effigee of South African President Zuma with his private parts hanging out. Nothing of the sort was done to all satanic Apartheid leaders of South Africa. They want to deform, dehumanise and degrade people all in the name of freedom of expression. There really is nothing wrong with freedom of expression but when pervets abuse that freedom to satisfy their wierd minds, that is where the problem is.

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      I couldn’t agree more we need the police and the law to protect us from irresponsible journalists

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    munzwa 10 years ago

    freedom of expression rules, the courts can be used to verify the authenticity of the report if need be.Why should it be a crime to call someone a goat etc?

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      You are generally taught it is wrong in pre school or junior school. Its not our fault you had no parental control or your teacher didn’t discipline you when you called people names.
      Because you don’t know the difference between right and wrong is why we need jail.