Why should defamation burden journalists?

Editor, I totally agree with the move by media practitioners, who, through Rwanda Journalists Association (ARJ) petitioned the Senate demanding to review several articles in the penal code to help ease the practice of journalism in the country.

Editor,

I totally agree with the move by media practitioners, who, through Rwanda Journalists Association (ARJ) petitioned the Senate demanding to review several articles in the penal code to help ease the practice of journalism in the country.

Personally, I think bad laws will only intimidate journalists so that they can learn to censor themselves. The contested articles punishing defamation could be a serious obstacle to practitioners and will, in my view, limit their ability to educate and inform the public since they are the society’s watch-dogs and the voice of the voiceless.

Sometimes, journalists get things wrong but this is not intended. Defamation is false or unjustified injury of the good reputation of another person. But who is supposed to determine the level of this damage? It’s always difficult to quantify the damage because someone may claim that his reputation was damaged when he does not have such reputation in society.

Our government has largely demonstrated commendable respect for freedom of the press. If you read what Rwandan newspapers write, you would know that our country’s media are as free as, or even freer than, those in Western countries. I think what is necessary is to strike a balance.

Jackie Mbaraga
Kigali

 

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