The ANC announced in 2015 that it planned to persuade Parliament to repeal the common law crime of criminal defamation, which criminalises libel but has been extended to insulting and derogatory statements in other countries. Although criminal defamation is infrequently used in SA, similar laws have been used and abused in many other African countries to stifle criticism of their presidents and other political leaders. Many editors and journalists have been jailed — some for lengthy periods — under charges brought against them for publishing criticism of political leaders and their policies. Many of those charges have been trumped up, while some have been based on allegations of publishing false news in which the arbiters of the falsity are government officials anxious to protect their leaders and the government. So the media in SA extended a hearty welcome to the ANC’s move, which originated with the party’s recently formed research group, headed by lawyer Krish Naidoo. The group d...

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