Continued existence of criminal defamation and insult laws in some parts of Africa has contributed to decreasing levels of investigative journalism as whistleblowers and journalists fear arrests and persecution, Pen International has said.
Pen International, an organisation which works to connect the international community of writers, is on a campaign lobbying African countries to decriminalise criminal defamation and repeal insult laws.
The organisation held a meeting with the Justice and Human Rights Committee of the Pan African Parliament on Wednesday in South Africa where they presented an updated resolution based on the Midrand Declaration.
Although countries such as Malawi have enacted access to information (ATI) legislation, laws such as the Protected Names, Emblems and Flag and certain provisions of the Penal Code are used to intimidate and jail citizens for exercising their constitutional freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
In an interview,Pen International director of international programme Romana Cacchioli said criminal defamation and insult laws were holding investigative journalism back.
“The impacts of these laws are having a chilling effect in relation to investigative journalism in Africa, particularly where duty holders are being held to account.
“We are finding that investigative journalism is really being held back. The African public is not getting a full sense of the true facts of what is happening in their countries or the continent for that matter,” she said.
Ugandan Pen International president Danson Kahyana said civil means remained the best way of dealing with unprofessional conduct and abuse of freedom of expression.
He urged governments, through PAP, to help build more vibrant media councils and enact civil defamation laws through which challenges can be handled. n