ANZ editor seeks Con-Court referral

HARARE - Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) Group Editor, Stanley Gama, is seeking a Constitutional Court referral in a case of criminal defamation levelled against him by a Harare businessman.

This was after Harare magistrate Milton Serima dismissed his application for refusal of further remand yesterday.

ANZ are publishers of the Daily News, the Daily News on Sunday and the Weekend Post.

Gama and senior writer Fungi Kwaramba are in court following a report filed by controversial businessman Kamal Khalfan over stories linking the Omani citizen to underhand deals in Zimbabwe.

The duo’s lawyer, Advocate Zvikomborero Chadambuka instructed by Gilbert Machingambi, made the application in terms of Section 175 (4) of the Constitution “which provision allows for referral to the Con-Court arising as a result of a case”.

Chadambuka argued that the criminal defamation charges levelled against the two infringed on the provisions of the new Constitution of freedom of expression and the media.

“The question to ask is whether or not section 96 of the (criminal) code is consistent with the declaration of human rights and section 61 of the Constitution which provides for freedom of expression and the media as well,” he said.

“At the centre of our argument, section 96 (of the criminal code) limits what a person can say and threatens freedom of expression. It renders journalists unable to do their job, undermines their collection of information and threatens their sources of information.”

He said the Con-Court had already outlawed criminal defamation in general, in a recent case of former Standard editor Nevanji Madanhire.

Chadambuka emphasised the court’s focus on the “chilling effect” of the offence and said aggrieved parties must pursue civil remedies.

“Judicial notice should be taken of the movement to abolish criminal defamation. The Media minister himself has made it clear that criminal defamation is inconsistent with the Constitution,” he said.

State prosecutor Venancia Mtake opposed the application on the basis that accused persons had infringed on the complainant’s rights to private and public dignity by publishing the articles.

She said section 61 of the Constitution which provides for freedom of expression states that the freedom excludes malicious injury to a person’s reputation or dignity.

Gama and Kwaramba appeared in court with ANZ’s finance manager Zweli Sibanda, who was representing the company.

Khalfan is the owner of Catercraft, among other businesses, and has also sued the Daily News for a whopping $10 million in a civil suit before the High Court.

Khalfan — who holds a British passport and is the honorary counsel of the Sultan of Oman — accuses Gama, Kwaramba and ANZ of publishing material with a possibility of causing serious harm to his reputation.

ANZ denies the three counts preferred against the two journalists and is defending the action.

In January, the Daily News carried stories on how businessmen such as Khalfan were using their influence and political connections to introduce dodgy investors to President Robert Mugabe.

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