Paul Kasonkomona's acquittal - a gain for Freedom of Expression

Posted by ARASA on March 4, 2014

When our founding fathers coined the fundamental freedom of expression clause in the Constitution
now provided for in the 1996 Republican Constitution under Article 20. (1) which states that “Except
with his own consent, a person shall not be hindered in Protection of the enjoyment of his freedom of
expression, that is to say, freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and
information without interference, freedom to impart and communicate ideas and information without
interference, whether the communication be to the public generally or to any person or class of
persons, and freedom from interference with his correspondence”, they had in mind a democratic
society in which freedom of expression was the norm.

The acquittal of Mr. Paul Kasonkomona has established good law on freedom of expression that is
enshrined in our Republican Constitution. This follows his trial for arguing on a Muvi TV program that
the rights of sexual minorities, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons (LGBT) and sex
workers, should be recognised in order to effectively address the HIV epidemic.

This triumph extends far beyond Paul Kasonkomona as a human rights activist, it is also a victory for the
Press that is duty bound to inform the public. Our thinking in a democratic era must be grounded on
respect of fundamental human rights including freedom of expression without which democracy is a
myth. The freedom to impart ideas and the freedom to receive information is intertwined in freedom of
expression.


The validity of Paul Kasonkomona’s arguments in the use of human rights based response to HIV still
remains a subject of debate as the complexities of sexual orientation in responding to HIV continue to
be received with mixed views. However, this is an essential feature of freedom of expression in society.
Prof C. Anyangwe once stated “To violate a person’s right to freedom of expression is to infringe the
collective right of others to receive any information whatsoever and to have access to the thoughts
expressed by others.”


END.


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