The Constitutional Court ruled against the law in a case brought by ex-Standard editor, Nevanji Madanhire and reporter Nqaba Matshazi who were being charged for criminally defaming Green Card Medical Society chairperson Dr Munyaradzi Kereke.
The nine judges, led by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, ruled unanimously that criminalising defamation violated people’s freedom of expression and silenced the media.
The court added that the right to bring a civil suit for damages provided adequate protection for defamed people.
Madanhire and Matshazi were arrested after Dr Kereke reported to the police that they criminally defamed him in an article published in the Standard of November 6, 2011. The article said Green Card was on the brink of financial collapse.
“In short, it is not necessary to criminalise defamation statements,” Chief Justice Chidyausiku said yesterday.
“They [the journalists] have succeeded in demonstrating that the offence of criminal defamation is not reasonably justifiable in a democratic society on any of the grounds mentioned in Section 20(2) of the Constitution,” he said.
The chief justice challenged Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa to defend the law if he can bring new facts and arguments not already heard by the Constitutional Court.
Source: The Herald