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Zambia Repeals Controversial Defamation Law

Lusaka, Zambia — Critics of Zambia’s law against insulting the president have welcomed the government’s repeal of the controversial measure as a step forward for democracy. Rights groups say the colonial-era law has been used to silence government critics. President Hakainde Hichilema announced the repeal over the weekend along with the abolition of the death penalty.

Daniel Sinjwala Libati, a human rights lawyer, told VOA that he is happy with the repeal of the defamation law, announced late Friday by Hichilema.

“Very good, very good,” he said. “It allows people to freely criticize, not insult, freely criticize the presidency and provide checks and balances and constructive criticism in line with freedom of expression under our bill of rights.”

Political analyst Guess Nyirenda said while he is happy with the amendment of the law, a lot still needs to be done to promote freedom of expression in Zambia.

“We would like to urge President Hakainde Hichilema to set the tone and continue doing good especially in attending to the draconian and archaic laws,” he said.

Opposition National Democratic Party leader Saboi Imboela has been arrested multiple times under the defamation law.

She told VOA that while she welcomes the repeal of the law, she urges Zambians to exercise caution. She noted that the existence of cybersecurity laws is a concern, as they still restrict freedom of expression.