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.

A Collaboration With Ugandan PEN

From October 2017, Deyu African and PEN Uganda shall collaborate to publish a series of critical articles and creative work from Ugandans whose lives have been touched by the criminal justice sector.

International PEN-Uganda Centre, also known as Ugandan PEN is a branch of PEN International, a not-for-profit international organisation that champions freedom of speech and literature across borders

Dreams of Writing

Ms Oketta says she invited Ms Lamwaka, Mr Kisiki and I because, “It is very memorable and inspiring when students meet living writers.” According to her, “Writing is a very delicate hobby. As a profession, if it’s not well grounded, it can easily get lost in the middle of all the many things we want to do or become.”