The law of defamation and its effects on freedom of expression vis-a-vis press freedom

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Mwaanga, Joanne
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This study is a qualitative research carried out to investigate the effects of the Law of Defamation on the freedom of speech generally and on the freedom of the press in particular. The researcher used both theological and conceptual methods of research. The general objectives are to explore the common law of defamation as well as the theories and justifications of free speech and expression. After doing so, the researcher endeavors to establish ways that can be implored to strike a balance between these two conflicting interests. The law of defamation seeks to protect the reputation of an individual; this is done by restricting what can be said about a person's character. Defamatory matter is said to be that which tends to lower a person in the minds of right thinking members of society. It generally consists of libel and slander. The problem arises due to the fact that any law which seeks to protect reputation will invariably infringe on freedom of expression. Freedom of speech or expression connotes the right to speak freely and also involves the right to receive and share information. This right, though not absolute is of great importance in a democratic society as it allows the electorate to discuss the political candidates and enables them to make informed decisions. The findings revealed that in Zambia the protection of the freedom of expression especially that of the press leaves much to be desired. The press has no express protection. Further that the courts have taken a very narrow and rigid approach in applying defamation laws, the result of which has lead to serious fetters on the freedom of expression.
Freedom of the press , libel and slander