Malawi gov’t cautions online, social media over defamation

Malawi government authorities are warning  people they say take advantage of the country’s absence of legislation regulating on online media to defame others, saying there are laws that can catch up with them.

The warning comes from government spokesperson Moses Kunkuyu following  recent complaints by former Big Brother Africa,The Chase representative  Fatima Nkata, who said she felt defamed by negative comments which some people posted about her on social media including her nude photos.

Kunkuyu said although Malawi do not have laws that safeguard on online publications, there are legal steps that would help to take to task people who defame others.

“Social media is not the room for people to defame others. We condemn this in strongest terms. Right to privacy should be respected by all means,” he told local daily The Nation.

Dzonzi: It remains difficult to succeed in case against online publication
Dzonzi: It remains difficult to succeed in case against online publication

He said anyone who feels defamed through social media can report through government offices and the person can be traced and taken to court.

“We have a mechanism that traces anyone who publishes material that defames others,” Kunkuyu said.

However,  speaking to Nyasa Times, Wednesday evening, legal expert Justin Dzonzi says while it may be true that online contributors can be sued for defamation, the challenge is that some of those who put content online use pseudonyms which renders them difficult to be traced.

“It remains difficult to succeed in case against online publication because unlike radio and print media it is difficult to trace the culprit online because some writers who deliberately defame others use pen names,” he said.

He, however , said even in the absence of regulations on online media people can still file for defamation if they really have a proof of the person who has defamed them online but the challenge is whether they can succeed.

Media analyst Levi Zeleza Manda, told Nyasa Times that the challenge with defamation cases is that the victim has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the statement has caused an injury to her reputation or businesses.

Manda said it is unreasonable  for those in the public domain to run away from being defamed.

“Those who are  hold public offices, celebrities, faith leaders, politicians should at certain point expect to be defamed because their actions are in the public interest and should not think from running away from it,” said Manda.

Manda ,who is also  a renowned tutor in media ethics,  said it is not necessarily true that online media deliberately defame people by taking advantage of lack of legislation that regulate online content but he said sometimes it is  how the reporter handle the story.

“Sometimes people feel defamed on the way how the story is written although it may be true. So reporters should do here is to balance the story by including views  of the one who may feel offended in the story,” said Manda.

Manda asked those in public domain to be on check with their behaviour and conduct if they want to run away from being “defamed” by probing reporters.

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