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MISA-Zimbabwe statement on continued use of criminal defamation
October 22, 2012
notes with grave concern the upsurge in the number of cases involving
the arrests of journalists for criminal defamation at the instigation
of public officials.
The resort to
criminal defamation charges by public officials undermines and curbs
the media's watchdog role over the three arms of the state.
It also erodes citizens' right to freedom of expression and
access to information.
There is no
reasonable justification for retaining this globally discredited
law. The retention of these criminal defamation laws can only be
for purposes of shielding public officials from robust media scrutiny
by instilling fear among journalists through threats of imprisonment
for those who dare expose transgressions of those who hold public
this archaic and undemocratic law is simply there to limit citizens'
rights and ability to hold public officials accountable through
the media, which is inimical to good, transparent and accountable
While the retention
and increased application of criminal defamation legislation is
emblematic of the authorities' intolerance of free expression,
it also lays bare government's complete disregard of its democratic
obligations as enunciated in regional and international conventions
on freedom of expression.
a state party to the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights, Article 9 of African
Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and Banjul Declaration
on the Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa, which guarantee
and protect freedom of expression.
involve the arrest of community news activist Kudakwashe Matura
who was arrested in Kariba on 8 September 2012, Daily News editor
Stanley Gama, and his deputy Chris Goko, who were also arrested
on the same day in Harare.
Nhau Mangirazi was on 17 October 2012 summoned to appear at Karoi
police station in a suspected criminal defamation case following
the publication of story in the Weekly Mirror of 21 September 2012
titled: chief terrorises headman. The editor of the Weekly Mirror,
Dennis Kagonye, was also questioned in connection with the same
story by police in Karoi on 16 October 2012.
are in addition to nine other cases of criminal defamation that
MISA-Zimbabwe has recorded since 2011 to date, some of which are
still pending before the courts.
has thus become the weapon of choice against media freedom and freedom
of expression. This runs counter to spirited calls by the African
Commission on Human Peoples' Rights' Special Rapporteur
on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Advocate Pansy
Tlakula, for member states to repeal all criminal defamation laws
It is MISA-Zimbabwe's
firm conviction that criminal defamation laws have no place in modern
democracies and should thus be scrapped. In modern and civilized
democracies complaints against the media are amicably handled by
alternative adjudication bodies like Zimbabwe's own Voluntary
Media Council of Zimbabwe or through civil action laws, as opposed
to criminalising free expression, which is key to the exercise and
enjoyment of fundamental human rights.
therefore unreservedly calls for the urgent repeal of provisions
on criminal defamation as enshrined in the Criminal
Law (Codification and Reform) Act as this impinges on the fundamental
right to access, receive, impart and share information on issues
of public interest.
the MISA-Zimbabwe fact
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