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Big win for bloggers, journalists as DPP withdraws all criminal defamation cases

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keriako Tobiko has withdrawn all criminal defamation cases in court following a recent court ruling.

Early this month, the High Court declared as unconstitutional a section of the law that criminalises defamation. Justice John Mativo ruled that Section 194 of the Penal Code violates the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed under Article 33 of the supreme law of the land.

On Tuesday, Mr Tobiko wrote to the Director of Criminal Investigations Ndegwa Muhoro that henceforth, no charges shall be preferred against any person under the invalidated law, unless the judgment has been reversed.

“I direct that all criminal cases that are pending before court wherein accused persons are charged under Section 194 of the Penal Code (i.e. offence of criminal libel) be withdrawn under Section 87 (a) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 75 Laws of Kenya,” said the DPP.

FINE, APOLOGY OR VINDICATION

Mr Tobiko said he had appointed a team of senior prosecutors in office to review the judgment and advise whether there are grounds to appeal against the judgment.

Justice Mativo’s ruling ensures that bloggers and social media users will no longer be arrested and hauled to court for posts considered to be offending.

And the outcome of such cases will only be fine and apology or vindication –not jail terms.

In the past, several bloggers have been hunted down by police and paraded in court with some ending up in prison.

Two people charged separately with criminal defamation had sued challenging that law.

The judge ruled that there is already an appropriate and satisfactory alternative remedy for defamation.