Criminal Defamation Continues to Strain Media Freedoms

In East Africa, it is only Kenya that has outlawed criminal defamation. On 6th February 2017, the High Court annulled section 194 of their Penal Code Act which provides for the offence of criminal defamation.

According to a research carried out in 2016 by PEN International Uganda Centre, commonly known as Ugandan PEN, with funding from the United Nations Democratic Fund (UNDF), it was established that most of the libel and defamation cases brought against journalist are by politicians and rich people.

“Politicians and rich people are aware of the damage that defamation charges do to the morale of the journalists, so they press these charges even when they know that they do not have merit,” says Dr. Danson Sylvester Kahyana, the President of Ugandan PEN. He adds that journalists find it very difficult to raise money for legal representation, while politicians and rich men do not have to worry about this, as state attorneys represent them at the cost borne by the tax payer.