Monday, December 16, 2013

Zim court invalidates law that criminalises insulting president
By BBC
Sun 03 Nov. 2013, 14:00 CAT

COMMENT - So much for the corrupt BBC mantra that Zimbabwe is 'a dictatorship'. So it is no longer illegal to insult the head of state in Zimbabwe? Great Britain to follow, some day, because lese majeste is still a crime in the United Kingdom itself. - MrK

ZIMBABWE'S highest court has declared unconstitutional a law which makes it a crime to insult the president.

Prosecutors should not be overzealous about charging people who comment about President Robert Mugabe "in drinking halls and other social places", the Constitutional Court said. At least 80 cases have reportedly been filed in recent years under the law.

In May, opposition activist Solomon Madzore was arrested for allegedly calling President Mugabe a "limping donkey". He denied a charge of insulting the president.

Under Section 33 of Zimbabwe's Criminal Codification and Reform Act, a person could be jailed for up to a year or fined US $100 (£64) for insulting the president's office.

The law was challenged by several Zimbabweans, including a resident of the southern city of Bulawayo, Tendai Danga, who was arrested two years ago for allegedly insulting President Mugabe during a row with a policeman in a bar.

The court's nine judges were unanimous in ruling that the law undermined freedom of expression, making it unlikely that the government will appeal against it, reports the BBC's Brian Hungwe from the capital, Harare.

However, the court gave justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa until November 20 to file an appeal.

In August, a court acquitted a 26-year old man, Takura Mufumisi, charged with intending to use a poster of President Mugabe as toilet paper in a bar.

Zimbabwe approved a new constitution which expands civil liberties in a referendum in March.

Many Zimbabweans have welcomed the court's ruling, believing the law had insulated the president from criticism, a BBC correspondent says.
President Mugabe, 89, extended his 33-year rule in elections in July.
His rival Morgan Tsvangirai rejected the result, alleging it was marred by widespread fraud.

The court also declared unconstitutional a law curtailing media freedom, following a challenge by a privately owned financial publication, Zimbabwe Independent.

The state should not "penalise people who make false statements in good faith about a matter of public concern", deputy Chief Justice Luke Malala said.

Zimbabwean law currently states that a person can be sentenced to 20 years in prison for publishing falsehoods. - BBC

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