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Minister assures FOI law to be enacted next week

Minister assures FOI law to be enacted next week

Freetown – The Minister of Information and Communication, Ibrahim Ben Kargbo yesterday assured journalists that the Freedom of Information Bill, which has been laying in Parliament for some two years, would be “passed into law next week”. 

Speaking at an advocacy workshop on the country’s media laws, organised by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) with support from UNESCO, Mr Kargbo said he had spoken with the Speaker and Members of Parliament and that the bill would be brought before the House again next week for immediate passage.   

He admitted that the Criminal and Seditious Libel Law of 1965 was bad but sounded noncommittal as to whether the law would be repealed as had been promised on several occasions by President Ernest Bai Koroma. 

This is not the first time Government has committed itself to an immediate promulgation of the FOI Act. On the past the pledges were not respected. However, SLAJ President Umaru Fofana has lauded the statement by the minister regarding the promised enactment of the FOI Law next week, saying, “If it does happen as promised, it will be a watershed in the country’s history”. He however questioned the “lack of commitment on the part of government regarding a repeal of the obnoxious Criminal and Seditious Libel Law” for which SLAJ went to the Supreme Court in 2008. 

At the workshop itself, 30 journalists drawn from across the country were told about what constitutes Criminal and Seditious Libel and when it can and cannot be used. They were also told about the Freedom of Information Law and what it would mean for the practice of journalism if it were passed into law. 

The week long World Press Freedom Day activities continue on the day itself, 3 May with a procession in Freetown, Bo, Makeni and Kenema, followed by a Public Lecture in Freetown, a Muslim thanksgiving on Friday at the Amdalah Mosque and a Christian service on Sunday at the St. Anthony Church. The National Secretariat is encouraging all journalists to attend all functions.

Signed: Ismael Koroma, National Secretary General , SLAJ

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