Meeting on Decriminalisation of Freedom of Expression

November 20, 2014 9:43 am
Members of the DOX Campaign

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that is provided for in various human rights protocols and national constitutions. In the case of Zambia, this right is provided for under Article 20(1) and states

“Excerpt with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, that is to say, freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to impart and communicate ideas and information without interference, whether the communication be to the public generally or to any person or class of persons, and freedom from interference with his correspondence.”

However, the Zambian legal system imposes many restrictions on freedom of expression and are found under Article 20(3)(a)(b)(c ) of the Constitution.

However, the Zambian legal system imposes many restrictions on freedom of expression and are found under Article 20(3)(a)(b)(c ) of the Constitution.

Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this Act to the extent that it is shown that the law in question makes provision –

20(3)(b) that is reasonably required for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons or the private lives of persons concerned in legal proceedings, preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of the courts, regulating educational institutions in the interests of persons receiving instruction therein, or the registeration of, or regulating the technical administration or the technical operation of, newspapers and other publications, telephony, telegraphy, posts, wireless broadcasting or television or

20(3)(c ) That imposes restrictions upon public officers; and excerpt so far as that provision or, the thing done under the authority thereof as the case may be, is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.

From the above it is quite evident that this is a very wide derogation clause, which, if broadly construed, completely emasculates the protection of freedom of expression and the press contained in clauses one and two. Further compounding this situation is that the country’s provision on freedom of expression are inhibited by archaic pieces of legislation; the Penal Code and the State Security Act Cap 111.

The Penal Code makes it a crime to defame the president under Section 69, it makes sedition or publication of false news a crime and possession or publication of obscene material while the State Security Act makes it almost a crime to access any information from government that is classified even if it is about construction of a school or road.

2.0 DOX Campaign

Based on the above reason, MSIA Zambia in partnership with KAS, Wan-Ifra, Center for Human Rights and MISA Regional Office agreed to hold a meeting for stakeholders and engage government over the matters that surround freedom of 4 | P a g e expression and how the laws impede this right by incriminating many acts of freedom of speech.

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