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MMPZ welcomes scrapping of sections of defamation law
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
October 31, 2013
the historic ruling by Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court that
sections of the Criminal
Law Codification and Reform Act criminalizing the undermining
of the authority of the President and communicating falsehoods must
be struck off, as they are unconstitutional.
which was delivered by Justice Luke Malaba, followed an appeal by
Zimbabwe Independent journalists, Constantine Chimakure and Vincent
Kahiya, on one hand, and visual artist Owen Maseko, all of whom
had been charged under the Criminal Code.
Kahiya were charged under Section 31 for allegedly publishing or
communicating false statement prejudicial to the State, while Maseko
was charged under Section 33 for allegedly undermining the authority
of the President through his paintings.
The full bench
handed a unanimous decision with respect to Zimbabwe Independent
journalists, while the order was given by consent of both parties
with respect to Maseko’s case.
judgement came three days after Information, Media and Broadcasting
Services Minister Jonathan Moyo had said that government would soon
strike off criminal defamation from the country’s statutes
to align the law with provisions of the new Constitution
that guarantee freedom of expression and freedom of the media (The
Sunday Mail, 27/10).
In an exclusive
interview with The Sunday Mail (27/10), Moyo argued that the existence
of criminal defamation in the legal statutes had caused the country
“more harm than good”.
other CSOs, has for long campaigned for the abolition of criminal
defamation and repulsion of other restrictive legislation such as
the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA)
and the Public
Order and Security Act (POSA).
These laws are
not only inconsistent with the progressive nature of the new Declaration
of Rights in our Constitution, but also violate regional and international
instruments such as the African Charter on Human and People’s
Rights and the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, which compels governments to promote
and protect freedom of expression, association and assembly.
MMPZ has also
continued to lobby against what appeared to be an abuse of defamation
laws to settle political scores against government’s critics
such as the private media, CSOs, and ordinary Zimbabweans, and Zanu-PF’s
Not only were
such laws being selectively applied, but they were also discouraging
journalists and the public from investigating and exposing malpractices
in society such as high-level corruption.
MMPZ calls upon
the government to immediately repeal the remaining pieces of legislation
that impinge on Zimbabweans’ right to freedom of expression,
association and assembly, in line with the new Constitution and
regional and international instruments, which the government is
Charter on Human and People’s Rights, for instance, declares
that: “No one shall be subject to arbitrary interference with
his or her freedom of expression” and that: “Any restrictions
on freedom of expression shall be provided by law, serve a legitimate
interest and be necessary and in a democratic society”.
to observing that freedom of expression “should not be restricted
on public order or national security grounds unless there is a real
risk of harm to a legitimate interest and there is a close causal
link between the risk of harm and the expression”, the Charter
urges all States to “review all criminal restrictions on content
(and expression) to ensure that they serve a legitimate interest
in a democratic society”.
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