Arresting people for publishing false news is unconstitutional, says Zambian High Court

04 December 2014

The Zambian Watchdog reports that the Lusaka High Court has ruled that the offence of ‘publishing false news’ is unconstitutional and therefore void and no one should be arrested for publishing false news. Judge Isaac Chali made the landmark ruling this morning when he freed FODEP director McDonald Chipenzi who has been charged with the same offence. In December last year, the police arrested Chipenzi together with Richard Sakala of the Daily Nation newspaper after they alleged that police were conducting secret recruitments.

Police spokesperson Charity Chanda had that time said we have formally jointly charged and arrested the FODEP Executive Director McDonald Chipenzi, Daily Nation Newspaper Proprietor Richard Sakala and the Production Editor for the Daily Nation Newspaper Simon Mwanza for the offense of Publication of false information with intent to cause alarm contrary to section 67 subsections (i) and (ii) of the penal code cap 87 of the laws of Zambia.

But Judge Chali said today that section 67 of the Penal Code is void as it offends the provisions of Articles 18 and 20 of the Constitution of Zambia.

Judge Chali further said that in the circumstances, the prosecution of the accused person is unconstitutional and therefore void as such proceedings cannot be permitted in a democratic society which has a Bill of Rights expressly entrenched in a written Constitution.

The Zambian government this year arrested and subsequently jailed three Barotseland National Youth League members for allegedly publishing false information with intent to alarm the public.

The three youths who are now saving a three years jail sentence in Kaoma are Boris Muziba, Nayoto Mwenda and Sikwibele Wasilota.

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