Home » General » A Rare Victory for Journalists in Zimbabwe [analysis]

We don’t get to say this often, but yes, here’s a good news story from Zimbabwe! Two journalists managed to convince the country’s highest court that it really made no sense to make defamation a criminal act, and had the offending law struck off the statute books. This should offer a little more protection for journalists working in the country – not that it comes close to solving all their problems.

Zimbabwe has always had tough media laws. These are often used by the government to clamp down on media – to stifle critical reporting, to expel foreign journalists, to discourage investigations.

One of the most controversial of these was the law that criminalises defamation. Journalists deemed to have libelled someone, or damaged their reputation without good cause, could serve up to 20 years in jail. Zimbabwe is not alone in having this kind of law on its statute book: in southern Africa alone, both South Africa and Angola have similar laws (although the sentence is not quite so draconian in South Africa).

The threat of imprisonment is never an incentive for good journalism: it has a chilling effect on how journalists cover stories, and what they…

Source : Daily Maverick