- Development & Aid
- Economy & Trade
- Human Rights
- Global Governance
- Civil Society
Saturday, February 16, 2019
NEW YORK, May 22 2018 - The Committee to Protect Journalists today welcomed yesterday’s ruling by Lesotho’s Constitutional Court that criminal defamation is unconstitutional, calling it a significant step toward safeguarding press freedom in the country.
The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) supported an application by Lesotho Times owner and publisher Basildon Peta to have Section 104 of the penal code declared unconstitutional, the center said in a statement yesterday. Peta had been charged with criminal defamation on July 6, 2016, according to CPJ research.
“Journalists should never face criminal charges for doing their job and yesterday’s ruling by Lesotho’s Constitutional Court is the latest victory in the fight to abolish criminal defamation throughout the African continent,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal. “Criminal defamation is too often used to target critical journalists and we welcome Lesotho joining a growing group of countries that have found that criminal defamation is incompatible with constitutional guarantees for a free press.”
In Peta’s application before the court, he argued that the offense of criminal defamation violated the right to freedom of expression. He further argued that the use of criminal sanctions was a disproportionate response to protect individuals’ reputations because, among other reasons, a less-restrictive mechanism–civil defamation–was available, the SALC said.
The court agreed, and declared criminal defamation unconstitutional with retrospective effect, the SALC said. The three judges held that criminalizing defamation had a chilling effect of journalistic freedom of expression, resulting in self-censorship by journalists and a less-informed public.
The ruling was in keeping with a 2010 resolution from the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights calling on member states to repeal criminal libel laws, referring to them as “a serious interference with freedom of expression.” African countries where criminal defamation has been ruled unconstitutional since 2010 include Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Gambia.
This story was originally published by CPJ Committee to Protect Journalists
IPS is an international communication institution with a global news agency at its core, raising the voices of the South
and civil society on issues of development, globalisation, human rights and the environment
Copyright © 2019 IPS-Inter Press Service. All rights reserved. - Terms & Conditions
You have the Power to Make a Difference
Would you consider a $20.00 contribution today that will help to keep the IPS news wire active? Your contribution will make a huge difference.