ConCourt judgment welcome

HARARE - We join the nation and the journalism world at large in congratulating Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court for unanimously ruling that the draconian criminal defamation law infringes on people’s freedom of speech and therefore is not a justifiable law in a democracy.

In a case brought by two independent media journalists, the full bench of nine Constitutional Court judges said criminal defamation must be struck off the statutes whereupon they invited Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa to defend the law if he wished before the court passes a final declaration.

And the nation, especially the journalism fraternity, prays that Mnangagwa will concede and make sure the law is buried forever and in the process Zimbabwe will join the rest of the world in outlawing this archaic piece of legislation.

Criminal defamation is an ancient law abused by well-connected individuals and the powerful in society to punish perceived enemies.

In the case of Zimbabwe, the law was being abused by the powerful and well-connected to silence journalists and deter them from pursuing investigative stories.

In the landmark ruling welcomed by the nation, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku partly said:

“...Consequently, I am satisfied that the offence is not reasonably justifiable in a democratic society within the contemplation of Section 20(2) of the former Constitution.

Accordingly, it is inconsistent with the freedom of expression guaranteed by Section 20(1) of that Constitution.”

“They have (journalists) succeeded in demonstrating that the offence of criminal defamation is not reasonably justifiable in a democratic society on any of the grounds mentioned in Section 20(2) of the Constitution,” he said.

We also tend to agree with the minister of Information, Jonathan Moyo, who has been vocal against criminal defamation, saying he was concerned that the law was still being used in a democracy like Zimbabwe.

He said: “We have previously placed on record that in our view, criminal defamation is not only outdated and incompatible with the values and ideals of the liberation struggle with respect to human rights and freedoms but also, and more importantly, criminal defamation is inconsistent with our new Constitution.

“In this connection, we are of the firm view that a criminal defamation charge cannot be sustained in the courts and should therefore be removed from our statute books in order to align the law with the new Constitution and to avoid wasting of police resources and time over a matter that has no constitutional basis.”

It is against this background that we believe the independence of the judiciary is alive and well in Zimbabwe. It is high time aggrieved persons used civil courts to settle matters with journalists or approach the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe for arbitration.

Comments (1)

We indeed applaud the ConCourt for a job well done, but above it all SPECIAL MENTION goes to Magistrate Milton Serima who has shown a high standard of professionalism. He is a learned man for sure. May the good Lord protect him for his enemies are now increased.

mosquito - 19 June 2014

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