The Zimbabwe Sentinel-Media Centre

Telling the other story – MEDIA CENTRE


Constitutional Court Ruling on Criminal Defamation Welcomed with Caution

The recent constitutional court ruling striking down , Section 31a (iii) of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act has been received with caution by media analysts.

The ruling by the Constitutional Court followed an appeal by Alpha Media Holdings journalists Chimakure and Kahiya who were both charged under the Criminal Code’s Section 31 for allegedly publishing or communicating a false statement prejudicial to the State.

Analysts interviewed welcomed the ruling but noted that criminal defamation laws targeting journalists remains entrenched in the statute books and can still be used to punish offenders.

“There is nothing to celebrate in the ruling posed by the constitutional court. Defamation laws still need to be aligned to the new constitution. Failure to align the laws to the constitution will see the police still arresting people for expressing their views,” said Loughty Dube, the Director of Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe.

Kumbirai Mafunda, the Information Officer for the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)echoed the Dube’s sentiments when he said the ruling is just an academic ruling.
“Criminal defamation is undemocratic and we don’t need such laws as they impede the work of journalists. The ruling is an academic ruling since it relates to the old constitution. The court hasn’t pronounced anything in relation to the new constitution,” said Mafunda.

He went on to say that the court is obliged to pronounce defamation laws in line with the new constitution.

MISA-Zimbabwe in a statement noted that the judgment declares the provision unconstitutional only as far as the former constitution is concerned.

“The judgment creates a void and uncertainty as to the constitutionality of this provision under the current constitutional dispensation,” reads the statement.

However the Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), Foster Dongozi was more optimistic .

“We welcome the ruling as it promotes freedom of expression and the move is good for democracy. The outcome of the ruling makes journalists operate in a free environment and this gives journalists room to report fair and accurately,” said Dongozi

He went to say that the country is moving forward and other defamation laws need to be aligned to the new constitution


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Chief Editor: Earnest Mudzengi Content Editor: Willie Gwatimba