Chairman of Standing Committee on Political Affairs and Gender in Parliament, Alfred Kayiranga said Thursday morning that defamation has been removed from the draft law determining offences and penalties in general.
As the committee tabled before the Lower House plenary sitting the report on the review of the Penal Code, Kayiranga said that some articles were dropped as the committee found them fitting into civil laws.
“Like some other articles, defamation should not be criminalised. We have removed it from this draft law,” he said.
The current Penal Code states that anyone found guilty of defamation shall face a jail term of six to 12 months and a fine of Rwf1 million to Rwf5 million.
However, Article 169 of the proposed Penal Code indicates that when convicted, one is liable to a jail term of not less than two years but not exceeding three years and a fine of not less than Rwf3 million but not exceeding Rwf5 million.
Though defamation was dropped from the proposed Penal Code, MP Emmanuel Mudidi opposed the move saying the House should revisit this article because scrapping it would pose many consequences. To him, defamation is a big offense that should be considered in the law.
Kayiranga explained that, like defamation, many other points were left out for political interests.
“There are some articles that were removed from Rwanda’s Penal Code draft for political interests and respect of human rights. This doesn’t imply that these offences will not be penalised, but they will go into civil laws or in laws regulating media,” he explained.
Good news to journalists
Tightening penalties on defamation in Penal Code amendments had sparked debate and media practitioners had recently raised voices against the article saying that it would undermine freedom of expression.
Executive Secretary of Rwanda Journalists Association, Gonzague Muganwa had said that defamation contradicts journalistic ethics under the article two of media ethics and, therefore, should not be in Penal Code.
He said that breach of media ethics should be handled by media self-regulatory body.
Early this month, the media fraternity had convened in a consultative meeting and agreed to file a petition to parliament stating their position that defamation should be scrapped from the Penal Code under review and be handled as a civil matter.