THE Constitutional Court has directed Nakawa Chief Magistrateâ€™s Court to continue with criminal proceedings against The Daily Monitor journalists, who are accused of writing defamatory information against the Inspector General of Government, Faith Mwondha.
The five-judge-panel gave the directive on Thursday when dismissing a petition in which the four journalists had sought the interpretation of the law criminalising libel, saying it was intended to take away freedom of expression.
The acting deputy Chief Justice, Alice Mpagi-Bahigeine, headed the panel. The other judges were Steven George Engwau, Constance Kategaya-Byamugisha, Steven Kavuma and Augustine Nshiimye.
The journalists are Joachim Buwembo, Bernard Tabaire, Emmanuel Davies Gyezaho and Robert Mukasa.
The journalists, who were represented by lawyer James Nangwala, allegedly published articles in their Sunday papers of August 19 and 26, 2007 under the headlines â€œIGG in Salary Scandalâ€ and â€œGodâ€™s Warrior Faith Mwondha Stumblesâ€.
Court said the freedom of expression should be enjoyed within the restrictions of the law.
Nangwala had asked the Nakawa Court to refer the case to the Constitutional Court for the interpretation of the section of the law under which the journalists were charged, saying it infringed on the Constitution.
He had also argued that the Constitution said: â€œNo person shall prejudice the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms provided under the Constitution beyond what is acceptable and demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.â€
According to Nangwala, in a democratic society, people who hold public offices and are responsible for public administration must be open to criticism.
However, the state attorney, S. Mutesi, said freedom of expression was not an absolute right.
But added that criminal prosecution for libel should not be instituted if the libel complained of is trivial and not likely to disturb the peace of the community or seriously affect the reputation of the person defamed.
Court upholds Mwondhaâ€™s libel case