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News: Kagame supports civil defamation

Published on: 16-05-2019

President should be treated like other officials, journalists welcomed statement

President Paul Kagame came out on 26th April 2019 to support decriminalisation of defamation against the head of state. This followed a Supreme Court ruling in which two articles of the Penal code were deemed unconstitutional but the article concerning the president was kept. THe Supreme COurt ruled following a petition by lawyer Mugisha Richard in which the Rwanda Journalists Association submitted a friends of court (Amicus curiae) as interested party. ARJ led the media fraternity in a long campaign for decriminalizing press offences including defamation.
According to a statement issued by the president’s office, Kagame while respecting the decision of the court his position was that this should always be a civil rather than a criminal issue. “The President, however, takes issue with the decision to retain as criminal offences, insults or defamation against the Head of State, who is also a public official,”.
The New Times quoted the Executive Secretary of ARJ welcoming the president’s statement. “We welcome and are greatly encouraged by the President’s statement,” he told the New Times adding, “All defamation should be civil and particular to media, self - regulation should be used for correction. Journalists will fully participate in the continuing debate.”
That said, Muganwa added, “we underscore that defamation and insults using media are ethical breaches. We encourage constructive criticism and scrutiny, not insults.”

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