HARARE, Feb 5 - Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court has confirmed that criminal defamation is no longer part of the law following an application filed by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) in the country.

The ruling is a concession by the State that Section 96, which provides for criminal defamation under the Criminal Law, was void from its inception, bringing the matter into inception effectively.

Chief Justice Chidyausiku granted the application in terms of the draft order sought, but said reasons for the judgment would follow.

The application follows judgment in the case of Madanhire and Others in 2013 in which the court ruled that Section 96 of the CODE was inconsistent with the provisions of Section 20 of the former Constitution which provided for freedom of expression, and was therefore void.

MISA-Zimbabwe has welcomed the Constitutional Court judgment which vindicates its incessant calls for the scraping of this law from the statute books.

MISA-Zimbabwe said that such laws had no place in a democratic society, given that there are alternative civil remedies available to aggrieved parties outside criminal defamation.

Such remedies include filing complaints with bodies such as the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe and civil actions for defamation in courts of law.

MISA-Zimbabwe said it remained mindful there was a litany of statutes which could still be used to criminalise freedom of expression and journalistic enterprise.

They include the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Official Secrets Act and the Censorship and Entertainment Controls Act, and the Broadcasting Services Act, among others.

Source: SABC