Press Release by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa on the ruling by Lesotho’s Constitutional Court declaring that criminal defamation is unconstitutional

    The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission), acting through the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (the Special Rapporteur), Commissioner Lawrence Mute, welcomes the determination by the Constitutional Court of the Kingdom of Lesotho of 21 May 2018, that criminal defamation is unconstitutional. The Constitutional Court held that criminalizing defamation had a chilling effect on journalistic freedom of expression, resulting in self-censorship by journalists and consequently a less-informed public.

    The Special Rapporteur notes that this ruling represents an extremely important victory for freedom of expression in the Kingdom of Lesotho, and is in line with the Commission’s Resolution on Repealing Criminal Defamation Laws in Africa (ACHPR/Res.169 (XLVIII)10), which calls on State Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter) to repeal criminal defamation laws or insult laws which impede freedom of speech.

    Accordingly, the Special Rapporteur calls on the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho to support the passage of any necessary consequent policy and legislative changes to ensure the full promotion and protection of the right to journalistic freedom of expression and indeed freedom of expression generally in line with Article 9 of the African Charter, and as elaborated in the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa.

    Banjul, 31 May 2018

     

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      Date: 01 June 2018

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