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.

Catherine Anite

Catherine Anite is a Human Rights advocate. Her work focuses on the promotion and defense of freedom of expression, media rights, and access to information. She has over four years’ experience working with journalists, women, children and refugees. She is the Chief Legal Officer at the Human Rights Network for Journalists in Uganda, where she defends and represents journalists at police stations and courts of law, analyses and publicises laws and policies that impede on freedom of expression, publishes work on media rights, trains journalists on professional standards, promotes media self-regulation and spearheads media rights campaigns.