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ANC, media agree defamation shouldn’t be a crime

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The media and the ANC might not always agree, but there is consensus on the question of erasing criminal defamation from the country’s common law.

“We were very pleased in April when we discovered that the ANC actually expressed a view that criminal defamation doesn’t belong in the criminal sphere of our law,” said SA National Editors Forum (Sanef) council member Moshoeshoe Monare on Wednesday.

“It really impairs and affects freedom of speech in the sense that whatever you write, it’s not a question of someone suing you and you putting your case forward, but you have to be humiliated as a journalist and be arrested and prosecuted. To be honest I don’t think it has a place in post-apartheid South Africa,” he said.

Sanef, the ANC and civil society will discuss the matter at a workshop in Johannesburg on Saturday.

The ANC’s legal advisor, Krish Naidoo, said a composite approach needed to be developed involving all sectors of society.

The governing party had set up a legal research group to tackle this and other issues.

“We say that the formation of the legal research group heralds a fresh approach to working with the media on matters of common interest,” he said.

“We are a very young democracy and we want the media to interrogate this democracy and be critical about it without the fear of criminal sanctions.”

The ANC’s legal research team had looked at other countries which had done away with criminal defamation such as the United Kingdom, Central and South America and even Zimbabwe.

“We need to think progressively,” said Naidoo. News24

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