Campaign for Free Expression (CFE) in partnership with the Zimbabwe National Editors’ Forum (ZINEF) is hosting a Media Defence Seminar on Wednesday November 8, 2023, in Harare, Zimbabwe. The event, which is supported by Media Defence London and the Irish Embassy in Pretoria, will gather journalists, publications, and stations across the private and state media sectors, to discuss ways in which to deal with legal cases against journalists and media houses; many of which are Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP) in nature.
SLAPP cases or legal actions which are not in pursuit of justice but are aimed at intimidating those who criticise or speak out against large corporations or other wealthy and powerful institutions – taking advantage of unequal financial resources, thus stifling debate and restricting free speech. These cases often involve defamation claims, charges of spreading false information or violations of national security laws.
The meeting comes at a time when there is a growing need to tackle SLAPP cases in the region and across the globe. While there has been increasing awareness in South African legal circles of the role of SLAPP lawsuits, knowledge and understanding about this trend in the rest of the region remains limited. Through stakeholder consultations and case analyses, the meeting will probe the underlying causes behind the escalating trend of legal action against journalists and publications in Southern Africa and propose potential strategies that foster regional collaboration to safeguard press freedom and protect journalists in the region.
Speakers at the seminar will include human rights lawyers, senior journalists and activists; among them Anton Harber, the Executive Director at Campaign for Free Expression, Lynette Manzini, News Editor at Open Parly ZW, Nigel Nyamutumbu, a
media development practitioner who is the Coordinator of a network of media professional associations and support organizations, the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) and Doug Coltart, a human rights lawyer who is a member of the
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.