Home » General » Criminal Defamation Law Still Operative [press release]

The Zimbabwean Constitutional Court, on 19 February 2015, reportedlyruled that criminal defamation is still operative. This vindicates similar assertions by MISA Zimbabwe that the law in question had only been struck off in terms of the old Constitution.

Constitutional Court judge Justice Bharat Patel issued the declaration order concurring with Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa’s submissions that judgment in the case of former Standard journalists Nevanji Madanhire and Nqaba Matshazi was only made in the context of the old Constitution.

In June 2014, Madanhire and Matshazi successfully applied for permanent stay of prosecution on charges of contravening section 96 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act 2004, on the grounds that the provision was unconstitutional.

The finding was made on 12 June 2014 in a Constitutional Court judgment delivered by Justice Bharat Patel, with the full concurrence of Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku and Justices Malaba, Ziyambi, Gwaunza, Garwe, Gowora, Hlatshwayo and Guvava. It was found that section 96 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act 2004 was inconsistent with section 20(1) of the former Constitution, which dealt with freedom of expression.

The clarification means that journalists and Zimbabwean citizens can still be prosecuted for criminal defamation until the law’s constitutionality is tested in terms of the new Constitution.

MISA Zimbabwe position

MISA Zimbabwe reiterates that criminal defamation and any other laws that criminalise expression are an affront to freedom of expression and media freedom as protected by the (new) Constitution, and should be immediately struck off the country’s statutes.

These laws, which also include the presidential insult laws and other provisions under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act 2004, notably sections 31, 95 and 96, do not only turn outspoken citizens and critics into criminals, but can also result in:

middot Self-censorship:the media cannot fully utilise its media freedom as guaranteed in section 61 of the Constitution when threatened with criminal charges.

middot Curtailing citizens’ right to information:media self-censorship affects the quality and amount of information received by citizens.

middot Selectivity, misuse and abuse:these laws can be used as retaliation, vengeance or blackmail tools as opposed to being genuine means of redressing injury.

For any questions or comments, please contact:

Nyasha Nyakunu

Programmes Coordinator

MISA Zimbabwe

Telefax: +263 4 776165746838

Cell: +263 712 602 448

Email:

Website:

Twitter: @misazimbabwe

Facebook: Misa Zimbabwe

Source : Media Institute of Southern Africa

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