Home » Governance » Minister Raps Criminal Defamation

Daily News group editor Stanley Gama and reporter Fungisai Kwaramba were yesterday picked up by the police for questioning in relation to a story published in January about businessman Mr Kamal Khalfan accusing him of shady dealings and being a homosexual. Gama and Kwaramba were questioned at Highlands Police Station after Mr Khalfan made a criminal defamation report against them.

National police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi could not divulge further details.

“We confirm that Stanley Gama and Fungisai Kwaramba were picked up by police today (yesterday) in connection with criminal defamation allegations,” he said. “We have interviewed them and released them in connection with the ongoing investigations.”

Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo said the arrest was unnecessary and individuals should not pursue “personal matters” through the courts.

Prof Moyo is on record saying criminal defamation laws breached the new Constitution.

Chapter 9:23 of Section 96 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act is due to be repealed as it has been found to be contrary to the Constitution.

Prof Moyo said his ministry reviewed the constitutionality of criminal defamation in terms the new Constitution and concluded there was no legal basis for retaining a law that was against progressive values rooted in the liberation struggle.

“To be honest with you, I hope the reports in question are not true because the reported action is not necessary at all and risks entangling the police in personal matters that are best left to the offended individuals to pursue in the courts through their own resources and on their own through civil litigation,” he said.

“As such, we believe we need to align the Criminal Law Code with the Constitution by removing criminal defamation from our statutes. Our ministry recently deployed an Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI), which is fighting criminal defamation among other enemies of our national development and aancement as an empowered society.”

Prof Moyo said there was “something medieval” about sending anyone to jail on the grounds that they had lied.

“While our much-respected police should indeed be left alone to get on with their work without hindrance, it cannot be right that their otherwise excellent work should include investigating whether so-and-so in the media has told a defamatory lie against so-and-so among the rich or influential in high society,” he said.

“It is worse when the matter is elevated to prosecution, as if we are not aware of the case backlog that is crippling our criminal justice system. And let’s face it, there’s something medieval about sending anyone to jail on grounds that they have told a lie.

“That is why criminal defamation or libel is no longer in the statute books of constitutional democracies such as ours.”

Sources close to investigations said the matter was in relation to a story published in the Daily News in January 2014, which said Mr Khalfan was in a bitter contest with his Omani compatriot Mr Thamer Al Shanfari over a German investor.

The paper reported that a series of e-mails between Mr Khalfan and Mr Dietrich Herzog revealed money laundering and accusations of gay activities.

The report dragged in the names of top Government officials.

Last month, Mr Khalfan sued the Daily News for US$10 million over some of the stories, with the newspaper responding by filing an appearance to defend.

Mr Khalfan said the Daily News had damaged his reputation by publishing the articles without giving him the right to respond.

Source : The Herald