New York, February 3, 2016–Today’s ruling by Zimbabwe’s Supreme Constitutional Court that the country’s criminal defamation laws are unconstitutional is a welcome step toward safeguarding press freedom, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.
The court’s panel of nine judges, led by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, ruled that all laws assigning criminal penalties to defamation contradict guarantees of press freedom enshrined in Zimbabwe’s constitution, according to press reports.
“This is an important victory for freedom of expression in Zimbabwe,” said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. “The government has too often resorted to criminal defamation to muzzle independent journalists.”
The ruling was in response to a lawsuit brought by the Zimbabwean branch of the Media Institute of Southern Africa and four journalists – Nqaba Matshazi, Godwin Mangudya, Sydney Saize, and Rodger Stringer – who were individually arrested on charges of defaming politicians in 2011, according to press reports.