judicial independence

PEN Report: Criminal Defamation is Used to Stifle Dissent in Africa

JUDICIAL independence and media freedom are usually linked. In countries where judges feel unacceptable levels of government pressure it is probable that journalists will be experiencing the same thing.

As far as journalists are concerned, criminal defamation is a serious problem hampering the media and undermining the watchdog role of journalists in many African countries. Typically, criminal defamation is used by political and business leaders in particular, to prevent journalists from investigating and writing about personal corruption, corruption in government departments or corruption in business.

Ugandan Judge Sues Attorney-General

IN the struggle to ensure judicial independence judges sometimes have to take extraordinary steps. Over the last six months however none can have been more unusual than the litigation by Ugandan high court judge Joseph Murangira, which saw the judge suing Uganda’s attorney-general.

The case, heard in the country’s constitutional court, came out of a settlement order finalized by the judge. One of the parties to that dispute was a government department, and when the agreed amount was due to be paid, the Public Accounts Committee of parliament ordered the judge to appear before it and justify his decision. When he refused to do so the parliamentary committee made a report against him that was adopted by parliament, “purporting to veto” his decision in the high court.

Uganda: Judicial Independence Reaffirmed

JUDGES of Uganda’s constitutional court have come to the rescue of two judicial colleagues: the two judges of that country’s industrial court were appointed for a five-year term, while the constitution says judges must have permanent, pensionable appointments. The two judges petitioned the court for help after they had no satisfaction when they raised the matter with the attorney-general. The court agreed that it was unconstitutional to appoint judges for a short-term period and that this could impact on judicial independence.

JUDGES of Uganda’s constitutional court have come to the rescue of two judicial colleagues, finding that the statutory five-year limited term of office of the industrial court bench undermined judicial independence and was unconstitutional and therefore invalid.

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