The possibility of a legal person being a victim of criminal defamation has been the subject of a lot of doctrinal and jurisprudential inquiry. This is because, it is understood that the criminal defamation is an offence against “honour” and “respect” which are innate qualities of a human being. Only the individual could institute criminal proceedings as the injured for defamation.
If we look at the content of the Penal Code (PC), namely on the Special Section in Chapter VIII “Crimes against Honor,” it appears that the lawgiver did not expressly address the possibility of a legal person or entity to be a victim of a legal type of criminal defamation, made only for entities that exercise public authority.
However, despite the fact that the Law does not expressly refer to legal persons as the object of criminal defamation, we believe, in our opinion, that the article 229 of the PC applies to legal persons of private law, namely, with respect to commercial companies. There is no room for doubt that the statement and dissemination of unfavourable information in respect of a legal person can cause disbelief in the market so far as to, for example, cause loss of goodwill, prestige, reputation or trust and frustrate the ability to pursue its purpose.
Thus, the prestige, the image and good name, essential personality values inherent in every human being and that are part of the concept of honor in regard to natural persons, are also vital and interrelated when it comes to the legal person in furtherance of its commercial purpose. The “honor” of legal persons is not honor in a restricted sense which is applicable to natural persons, but rather the concept should be given a broad interpretation, covering the good name, image, reputation, prestige, credibility, trust put in itself. As such these concepts deserve criminal protection because undeniably the imputation of untrue and offensive facts can affect your reputation and fame in the market.
The word “others” referred to in article 229 CP means persons, covering both natural persons and legal persons, subject to the protection in civil matters (483 and 484, both of the Civil Code). In fact, today, and in this sense that the jurisprudence and doctrine express this matter, although it is recognized that legal person’s personality rights are limited.
Article compiled by Cristóvão Chauca Lawyer (Litigation department) of our member firm CGA Advogados in Mozambique