EDITORIAL: Penal Code amendment: There is need for more deliberations

A section of the Penal Code concerning media crimes is again under the spotlight as lawmakers continue to analyze amendments put forward by the Ministry of Justice and the Law Reform Commission.

A section of the Penal Code concerning media crimes is again under the spotlight as lawmakers begin analysing amendments put forward by the Ministry of Justice and the Law Reform Commission.

One of the most pressing was on the issues is how to deal with defamation. Should it be criminalized or treated as a civil matter that does not need prison terms?

From the onset, the media fraternity has been involved in drafting the media law and wide consultations have taken place that saw several amendments regarded as impediments to the development of the sector.

The most important outcome was the government stepping out of the regulatory role and handing it over to the media, hence the creation of Rwanda Media Commission (RMC).

That, together with the passing of the Access to Information Law, was seen as the most important milestones in freedom of information.

RMC has been handling defamation and libel cases brought to its attention efficiently, so removing that oversight from its terms of reference beats the whole concept of self-regulation.

Gauging from the debate on the issue, especially on the parliamentary floor, lawmakers come out as if their main thrust is protecting public figures from being criticized or scrutinized, yet that is not the case.

Today, many countries have decriminalized defamation which now carries fines instead of prison sentences.

Dialogue is the only option out of the deadlock not name calling and fueling a needless fire on online platforms as has been the case the last couple of days.

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