Media Watch

Rwanda Parliament drops defamation from the draft penal code

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The Chairman of Standing Committee on Political Affairs and Gender in Parliament, Alfred Kayiranga has said on Thursday that defamation has been removed from the draft law determining offences and penalties in general.

Kayiranga said that some articles were dropped as the committee found them fitting into civil laws.

“Just like some other articles, defamation should not be criminalized. It has been removed from this draft law,” he pointed out

The current Penal Code states that anyone found guilty of defamation shall face a jail term of six to 12 months and a fine of Rwf1 million to Rwf5 million.

Still, Article 169 of the proposed Penal Code directs that when convicted, one is liable to a jail term of not less than two years but not exceeding three years and a fine of not less than Rwf3 million but not exceeding Rwf5 million.

However, MP Emmanuel Mudidi opposed the move saying the House should revisit this article because scrapping it would pose many consequences.

“Defamation is a big offense that should be considered in the law,” Mudidi claimed

Like defamation, many other points were dropped for political interests.

Kayiranga further said that some articles that were removed from Penal Code draft for political interests and respect of human rights,” He added“ This doesn’t imply that these offenses will not be penalized, but they will go into civil laws or in laws regulating media,” he explained.

Welcome note to the media

Constricting penalties on defamation in Penal Code amendments had ignited debate among media practitioners who had recently raised voices against the article saying that it would undermine freedom of expression.

Executive Secretary of Rwanda Journalists Association, Gonzague Muganwa had said that breach of media ethics should be handled by media self-regulatory body.

“Defamation contradicts journalistic ethics under the article two of media ethics and, therefore, should not be in Penal Code.

In his article written in the East African, PhD holder, Senior Lecturer, School of Journalism and Communication and lead consultant Christopher Kayumba wrote that: The revised penal code represents a setback in the progress made in creating a conducive legal environment for media freedom and free speech to flourish.

“The main reasons for saying these articles are a setback is because of their capacity to weaken government policy of media self-regulation and the broader governing philosophy of seeking to solve problems through dialogue.”

Early this month, the media fraternity had convened in a consultative meeting and agreed to file a petition to parliament stating their position that defamation should be dropped from the Penal Code under review suggesting that it should a civil matter.


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