n Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - Insult laws : a challenge to media freedom in the SADC's fledgling democracies?

Volume 41, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0010-4051



Media freedom, which is an aspect of the right to freedom of expression, is now generally recognised as an indispensable element of democracy. The mass media promotes the free flow of information, which enables citizens to participate in a meaningful and informed manner in the democratic process, also serves as a watchdog by scrutinising and criticising public officials over the way they manage public affairs. States in the SADC region have embraced democratic governance and have adopted liberal constitutions that, among others, guarantees both freedom of expression and media freedom. However, many of these states still have anachronistic laws on their statute books that unduly insulate public functionaries from criticism over how they conduct public affairs. One form which this protection takes is insult laws, whose rationale is said to be the protection of the honour and dignity of public functionaries. This article examines the impact of insult laws on media freedom in SADC's emerging democracies, and in particular, highlights the incompatibility of such laws with the ideals of a democratic society.

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