Kenyan court invalidates criminal defamation law as unconstitutional

By Jilo Kadida, 7 February 2017
A constitutional court has declared the law criminalising defamation invalid. Judge John Mativo declared section 194 of penal code invalid saying it contravenes the freedom of expression guaranteed under section 33 of constitution. The judge noted that anyone who is defamed has remedy under civil law to seek compensation and that criminalising defamation was therefore unacceptable in a democratic society. "The chilling effect of criminalising defamation is further exacerbated by the maximum punishment of two years' imprisonment for any contravention of section 194," he ruled. "This penalty in my view is clearly excessive and disproportionate for purposes of suppressing objectionable or opprobrius statement. The accomplishment of that objective certainly can't countenance the spectre of imprisonment as a measure that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society." His judgment arose out of a case filed by Jacqueline Okuta and Jackson Njeru challenging charges of criminal defamation brought against them arising out of Facebook post.


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