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Sierra Leone News: Ahead of Press Freedom celebration… Pres. Bio Assures the Media again.

45President Julius Maada Bio on Thursday 2 May 2019 has once more reiterated his commitment towards repealing the 1965 Public Order Act, which criminalizes defamation and seditious libel, during the official State opening of Parliament. It could be recalled that on Thursday 10th May 2018, President Bio assured Parliament and members of the public that his administration will take immediate steps to repeal the seditious libel law, support the School of Journalism and other institutions to train journalists. He also maintained he will encourage the private sector to invest in the media, provide budgetary subvention to SLAJ, enhance the capacity of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) to enforce the IMC Act and review the legal and operational status of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation to make it a truly professional national broadcaster. To this end the President during the 2019 State opening of the second session of the fifth Parliament, maintained the Media and civil society have become the bedrock of modern governance, explaining in Sierra Leone, the media and CSOs are at the forefront in holding state actors accountable.  According to President Bio, in early 2000, the Government set up the Independent IMC and charged it with the task of regulating and monitoring media institutions to ensure that they operate in a way that promotes the public good. “However, the IMC has failed to enforce its own ethics and like most democratic institutions, it has not escaped political interference from past Governments. Government has restructured the leadership of the IMC with a view to improving on delivery of its mandate,” he said.  He reminded Parliament that the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service was in 2009 transformed into a national broadcaster and renamed the ‘Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation’, with the mandate to be impartial and provide equal opportunities to all political parties.  “My Government is committed to ensuring that the Board and staff meet the corporation’s original mandate,” he assured, explaining, “We are still committed to repealing the seditious libel law” consistent with the pledge to repeal the obnoxious Section of the Public Order Act 1965, which criminalizes defamation and seditious libel. He disclosed the Ministry of Information has held consultations with key stakeholders including the Law Officers Department and the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) amongst others to adopt the appropriate strategy.  President Bio disclosed the draft cabinet paper requesting the amendment of the Public Order Act 1965 has been submitted to the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice for her concurrence. According to the Secretary General of SLAJ, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, it is welcome news from no less a person but the President himself re-echoing his commitment towards repealing the 1965 Public Order Act relating to criminalizing libel and sedition. He called on the President and the relevant authority to make it a point of duty in giving a specific date which according to him will be more appropriate if it can be done before the Association’s Annual General Meeting come July.

By Alhaji Manika Kamara

Friday May 03, 2019.

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