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MISA-Zimbabwe and senior journalists have filed a Constitutional Court appeal seeking the nullification of the criminal defamation law.

Through lawyer Chris Mhike the journalists argue that Section 96 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) is unconstitutional as it does not comply with Sections 61 and 62 of the new constitution passed 2013.

Sections 61 and 62 protect the right to freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information.

In the application, MISA-Zimbabwe is cited as the first applicant while journalists Nqaba Matshazi, Sydney Saize and Godwin Mangudya, are the second, third and fourth applicants respectively.

Roger Deane Stringer, an independent publishing consultant, is the fifth applicant.

Matshazi and Stringer have been victims of the law in question.

The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also the Vice President of Zimbabwe, Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Professor Jonathan Moyo and Attorney General Prince Machaya, are cited as respondents.

The respondents have 10 days within which to file a notice of opposition.

MISA-Zimbabwe argues that if the law in question was declared unconstitutional under the old constitution, there is no justification to have it under new charter.

The application comes hard on the heels of last week’s ruling by the Constitutional Court that criminal defamation is still operative and 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 on 19 February 2015 concurring with Mnangagwa that the 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.

Last week’s clarification means that journalists and Zimbabwean citizens, pending outcome of the MISA-Zimbabwe application, can still be prosecuted for criminal defamation.

Source : New Zimbabwe

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