Monday, June 24, 2024

President Hichilema’s Abolition of Criminal Defamation Law Questioned by PeP President Sean Tembo

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Last week, President Hakainde Hichilema announced the abolishment of section 69 of the Penal Code Act, which concerns criminal defamation of the President. This move was met with applause from some members of civil society, who argue that the law has been used by various regimes in the past to stifle freedom of expression and suppress dissent. However, Sean Tembo, President of the People’s Party (PeP), has raised doubts about the sincerity of the President’s decision to repeal this law.

In a press statement, Mr Tembo argued that it is not particular laws that restrict citizens’ fundamental freedoms and liberties, but rather the willingness of successive regimes to abuse these laws to suppress these freedoms. He pointed to the recent use of the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act No. 2 of 2021 to charge individuals with hate speech against the President, rather than criminal defamation. Mr Tembo claimed that he himself was charged under this Act after being held incommunicado by the police for six days. He argued that the arrest was designed to intimidate him and discourage criticism of the President and that the prolonged detention was intended to inflict extra-judicial punishment.

Mr.Tembo went on to argue that the repeal of the defamation law and the proposed amendment to the Public Order Act will actually give President Hichilema more scope to restrict the liberties and freedoms of the Zambian people. He explained that these repressive laws have been in place for a long time and have been abused by successive regimes to target political opponents. As a result, they have been thoroughly litigated and their implications are well understood. By repealing these laws, Tembo claimed, the President will be able to use less well-known laws, or even executive orders, to suppress dissent and criticism.

Mr.Tembo argued that the root cause of the suppression of freedom of expression in Zambia is the regime’s appetite for using the law to stifle its citizens’ liberties and freedoms. Unless this appetite is addressed, he said, the repeal of any particular law will be largely symbolic and will not result in a meaningful improvement in democracy in the country. Instead of announcing the repeal of the defamation law, Mr.Tembo called on the President to announce the repeal of his regime’s appetite to use lawfare to suppress the liberties and freedoms of citizens.

While some members of civil society have welcomed the repeal of the defamation law as a positive step for democracy in Zambia, Mr.Tembo’s statement raises important questions about the real impact of this decision. Without addressing the underlying reasons for the suppression of freedom of expression in the country, it is possible that the repeal of this law could merely be a superficial change, rather than a genuine improvement in the protection of citizens’ rights. It remains to be seen whether President Hichilema will take action to address the root causes of this issue, or whether the repeal of the defamation law will be a largely symbolic gesture.

10 COMMENTS

    • @Shawn Chikkala, this means no one will pay attention to your usual insult on HH. Just go ahead and insult if you want chikkala.

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  1. Look at this one……….

    Outplayed, outsmarted and outdone by the president…………..

    Now getting to nothing to write about……….

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  2. One of the things President HH promised while in opposition was the repeal of the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act No. 2 of 2021, to my surprise many other politicians including Sean Tembo said the it would be a silly thing to do.

    Tilibe chabwino.

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  3. I doubt this chap understands what the difference between freedom of expression and insults is because what he posts is just nonsenical at times. This is a person standing for high office its no surprise he gets zero votes.

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  4. The so called empty tin has explained very important things. .The problem with most critics here is that they lack understanding..Do deal with the branches instead deal with the root cause. Thats what Sean Tembo your so called empty tin is saying. It makes sense 100 PERCENT.

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