Supreme Court Of Lesotho Holds Criminal Defamation Laws Unconstitutional.
Civil remedies for reputational encroachment are more suited for redressing such reputational harm, the court said. The Supreme Court of Lesotho has declared country’s as criminal defamation laws unconstitutional observing that ‘crime of defamation has no place in its current constitutional dispensation’.
Justice MA Mokhesi in his 37 paged Judgment observed that Section 101- 104 of the Pena Code, that deals with the crime of defamation are inconsistent with the Section 14 of the Constitution. Lesotho is a small country in Southern Africa. Just like Section 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code, Lesotho, in its penal code enacted in 2010, has sections 101-104, which deals with offence of defamation. Section 101, 102 and 103 deals with definitions of defamatory matter, publication and unlawful publication respectively. Section 104 defines the offence of defamation.
The Court further said: “Criminalizing defamation has a chilling effect on journalistic freedom of expression. Fear of potential criminal sanction for reputational incursion may result in media practitioners doing what is known as self-censoring.”.