..…as Lesotho Constitutional Court declares criminal defamation unconstitutional.
New York, May 22, 2018 (CPJ): The Committee to Protect Journalists has welcomed yesterday’s ruling by [the Lesotho High Court sitting as a Constitutional Court] that criminal defamation is unconstitutional, calling it a significant step toward safeguarding press freedom in the country.
The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) supported an application by Lesotho Times owner and publisher Basildon Peta to have Section 104 of the penal code declared unconstitutional, the center said in a statement yesterday. Peta had been charged with criminal defamation on July 6, 2016, according to CPJ research.
“Journalists should never face criminal charges for doing their job and yesterday’s ruling by Lesotho’s Constitutional Court is the latest victory in the fight to abolish criminal defamation throughout the African continent,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal. “Criminal defamation is too often used to target critical journalists and we welcome Lesotho joining a growing group of countries that have found that criminal defamation is incompatible with constitutional guarantees for a free press.”
In Peta’s application before the court, he argued that the offense of criminal defamation violated the right to freedom of expression. He further argued that the use of criminal sanctions was a disproportionate response to protect individuals’ reputations because, among other reasons, a less-restrictive mechanism–civil defamation–was available, the SALC said.