THE MEDIA Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) yesterday welcomed the historic ruling by the Constitutional Court (Concourt) declaring unconstitutional some sections of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act that criminalises the undermining of the authority of the president and communicating falsehoods.
The ruling was delivered by deputy chief Justice Luke Malaba on Wednesday following an appeal by Zimbabwe Independent journalists Constantine Chimakure and Vincent Kahiya on one hand and visual artist Owen Maseko on the other, who were all being charged under the Criminal Code.
Chimakure and Kahiya were charged under Section 31 for allegedly publishing or communicating a false statement prejudicial to the State, while Maseko was charged under Section 33 for allegedly undermining the authority of President Robert Mugabe through his paintings.
The highest court in the land handed a unanimous decision with respect to the case of the Zimbabwe Independent journalists and gave the order in Maseko’s case by consent of both parties.
The landmark judgment came three days after Information, Media and Broadcasting Services minister Jonathan Moyo indicated that the government would soon strike off criminal defamation from the country’s statutes to align the law with provisions of the new Constitution that guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of the media.
Moyo said the existence of criminal defamation in the legal statutes had caused the country more harm than good.
The MMPZ said such laws violated 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 and other CSOs (civil society organisations) for long have been campaigning for the abolition of criminal defamation and repeal of other restrictive legislation such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Public Order and Security Act,” the MMPZ statement reads.
“MMPZ has also continued to lobby against what appeared to be an abuse of defamation laws to settle political scores against the government’s critics such as the private media, CSOs and ordinary Zimbabweans, and Zanu PF’s political opponents.
MMPZ called on 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, regional and international instruments of which the government is signatory to.
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