Freedom of the press and protection of the right to reputation: the role of the media in Zambia in the third republic

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Mbilima, Brian
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Defamation laws can serve a legitimate purpose and are recognised internationally as valid grounds for restricting freedom of expression. However, it is critical to the health of democracy that people should be free to debate issues and challenge authority in all spheres of life, whether political, scientific, academic or any other. Notwithstanding, freedom of speech does not mean that people should be able to ride roughshod over the reputations of others, and defamation laws must therefore strike the right balance. This research essay therefore examined the conflict between freedom of expression/press on one hand and the right to protection of reputation on the other hand. The research essay through a plefora of works referred to such as those of Kasoma Francis1 has shown that in Zambia the Press/media houses have gone through thorny periods especially during the colonial and post colonial one- party independence up to 1991. The research essay has examined the effects, if any; the pluralist period of 1991 onward has brought in so far as balancing freedom of the press and right to reputation is concerned. The research paper has shown that the multi-party period of 1991 onward, guaranteed a much freer press. The research essay through its examination of the Zambian case law such as Fred Mme 'mbe. Bright Mwape v The People (S.C.Z Judgment No. 4 of 1996), has shown that the Courts in Zambia have leaned heavily towards protecting the right to reputation of public officers at the expense of press freedom; in construing defamation cases. The research essay has also shown that the Defamation Act (CAP 68 of the laws of Zambia) in its current form is moribund. Further this research essay has recommended that the Defamation Act should be amended so as to include the definition of defamation as well as the constitutive elements that have to be proved. Additionally this essay has recommended that the Courts in Zambia should adopt the stance taken by the American Courts which has advanced more of press freedom than the reputation of public officials who otherwise have public media to dispel any falsehoods perpetuated against them. The research paper in conclusion has also recommended that freedom of the media should be separately guaranteed in the Constitution. 1 Festus Bribe and William Jong-Ebot eds Francis Kasoma. Press Freedom in Zambia. Press F
Freedom of the press , libel and slander , Press,law