Zimbabwean Court Declares Criminal Defamation Law Illegal

Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court

Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday dismissed the country’s criminal defamation law as unconstitutional in a development likely to be greeted with excitement by the media and human rights activists.The full Constitutional Court bench headed by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku ruled that Section 96 of the controversial Criminal Codification and Reform Act violated provisions of Zimbabwe’s dealing with freedom of expression.

The judgement followed an application by four journalists and the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa in which they challenged the criminal defamation law.

The journalists – Nqaba Matshazi, Godwin Mangudya, Sydney Saize and Rodger Stringer – took the government to court after they were arrested at different occasions for allegedly defaming top politicians.

The law has been used to harass journalists and rights activists into not criticising government officials and politicians.