Posts Tagged ‘criminal defamation laws’

Ray of hope: Lesotho court takes stand against defamation of HRDs

May 23, 2018

On Monday 21 May 2018, the Lesotho High Court (sitting as a Constitutional Court), in a unanimous judgment declared the offence of criminal defamation unconstitutional with retrospective effect. The case of Basildon Peta v Minister of Law, Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights and 2 Others. The case was brought by Basildon Peta, the owner and publisher of the Lesotho Times. He was charged with the offence of criminal defamation after the Lesotho Times in 2016 published a satirical column (the Scrutator) relating to the then-Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, Tlali Kamoli.

Section 104 of the Penal Code provides that a person who publishes defamatory matter concerning another person commits the offence of criminal defamation. Mr Peta submitted that the offence constituted an unjustifiable limitation of the right to freedom of expression. The Court in its judgment confirmed that the onus of proving that the impairment of a right was justified rests on the government. Of concern to the Court was the over breadth of the offence, with a charge being possible even if no person other than the complainant became aware of the supposedly defamatory statement, and with the offence further extending to defamation of deceased persons. The Court further held that the defence that a defamatory publication was for the public benefit was too vague and could lead, as in this instance, to cases where satirical comments are criminalised.

The Court held that criminalising defamation has a chilling effect on journalistic freedom of expression, resulting in self-censorship by journalists and a less informed public. The Court cited with approval calls by the African Commission and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression which encouraged states to repeal criminal defamation laws. The Court’s judgment follows in the footsteps of other African courts, including the ECOWAS Court, the Zimbabwe Constitutional Court and the Kenya High Court, which recently declared that the offence of criminal defamation violated the right to freedom of expression.

We commend the Lesotho Constitutional Court bench for its brave decision, which makes a significant contribution to freedom of expression jurisprudence in the region,” said Anneke Meerkotter, Litigation Director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre. “We are concerned by the ongoing use of criminal defamation laws against journalists and human rights defenders and hope that this decision will also send a message to other governments to reform their laws.

The judgment is available online at http://www.southernafricalitigationcentre.org/2018/02/13/lesotho-challenging-the-offence-of-criminal-defamation/

http://allafrica.com/stories/201805221085.html

Will Angola persists with defamation charges against ‘Blood Diamonds’ journalist today?

May 28, 2015

Investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais is due to appear in court today in Angola for sentencing. On 25 May the Public Prosecutor in his trial requested that the judge convict him of criminal defamation and sentence him to 30 days in prison, only four days after the announcement of the Lunda Provincial Tribunal that charges against Mr. Marques de Morais had been dropped!“ After more than two years of continuous judicial harassment, solely based on Mr. Marques de Morais human rights activities, this last decision makes yet another mockery of justice in Angola ”, said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

[Mr. Marques de Morais is a well-known Angolan journalist and editor of an Angolan anti-corruption website,who has been facing continuous judicial harassment since the publication in 2011, of his book, “Blood Diamonds : Corruption and Torture in Angola”, in which he documents and denounces the corruption, allegations of homicides, torture, forced eviction of civilian settlements and intimidation of inhabitants of the diamond-mining areas of Angola’s Lundas region by some state agents and business entrepreneurs.]

He is same Rafael Marques de Morais, who was quoted in my post of 19 December 2013 about Mariah Carey performing for the President that “the presidency was happy to cover the capital in posters of her performance, but on November 23 the presidential guards murdered an activist in custody for posting fliers. Those fliers were a peaceful protest of the murder of other activists disappeared by state police. How does Mariah Carey, the artist and humanist, who so often speaks about human rights, feel about that?…..The Angolan Red Cross gala raised $65,000. Mariah Carey’s transportation alone cost several times that number. It’s absolutely shameless,” added de Morais. [from https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/mariah-carey-needs-better-informed-staff-and-donate-her-1-million-fee-to-human-rights-defenders-in-angola/#more-4223] Read the rest of this entry »

Southeast Asian Voices of HRDs being stifled

September 12, 2013

As concerns grow in Southeast Asia over the use of national security, anti-terrorist and defamation laws to limit freedom of expression on the Internet, a coalition of international and local NGOs and activists from Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia urged governments to stop using vague legislation based on ill-defined concepts such as “national security”, “sovereignty” or “lèse-majesté” to intimidate, harass and imprison independent voices. Speaking at an event in Geneva, which coincides with the 24th session of the UN Human Rights Council, FIDH, IFEX, Article 19 and PEN International united to call for the urgent revision of these laws to bring them into line with international human rights standards. Independent and dissenting voices, including bloggers and netizens, journalists, activists and human rights defenders, have increasingly been subjected to repression in Southeast Asia.

A lot more detail in  Human Rights Council : Stifled Southeast Asian Voices: NGOs Unite … – FIDH.

Defamation charges against Hall will chill labor rights in Thailand says Human Rights Watch

April 11, 2013

Proceedings in this case, brought by a fruit processing company before the South Bangkok criminal court, are scheduled for today April 11, 2013. The charges stem from a defamation complaint filed on February 14 by the Natural Fruit Company Limited against Andy Hall for an investigative report about serious labor rights violations at the company’s factory in Prachaub Kirikhan province. If convicted, Hall faces up to two years in prison. He is also facing civil damages of 300 million baht  (US$10 million).“Criminal charges against Andy Hall reflect an attempt to stifle serious reporting on alleged abuses by one of Thailand’s top fruit processors,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Freedom to investigate abuses by corporations is critical to ensure compliance and accountability under Thai law and human rights standards.” The Natural Fruit Company, using a workforce comprised primarily of migrant workers from Burma, asserted that Hall defamed and damaged the company by “broadcasting false statements to public media.”HRW_logo

Hall’s report, “Cheap has a high price: Responsibility problems relating to international private label products and food production in Thailand,” researched and written with the Finnish nongovernmental organization FinnWatch, investigated the production practices of private label juices and fruit sold in Finland, including by Natural Fruit Company Limited. The report alleged that Natural Fruit Company Limited had committed serious labor rights abuses, including poor working conditions, unlawfully low wages, confiscation of workers’ official documents, use of child labor, and excessive overtime. Human Rights Watch, along with an increasing number of states and international authorities, believes that criminal defamation laws should be abolished, as criminal penalties are always disproportionate punishments for reputational harm and infringe on free expression.  Criminal defamation laws are open to easy abuse, resulting in very harsh consequences, including imprisonment. As repeal of criminal defamation laws in an increasing number of countries shows, such laws are not necessary for the purpose of protecting reputations. “The prosecution of Andy Hall strikes at the very core of efforts by human rights defenders to end pervasive abuses of workers in Thailand’s export industry,” Adams said. “International companies sourcing from Thailand should raise concerns with the government that using criminal charges to silence rights critics could adversely affect the overall reputation of Thailand’s major export sectors. The Thai government should welcome efforts to protect worker’s rights, not penalize them.”

via Thailand: Defamation Charges Chill Labor Rights Inquiries | Human Rights Watch.

also: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/opinion/Company-should-drop-case-against-British-rights-ac-30203542.html