Like In APC, Like in SLPP Journalism Remains Criminalized
Media Practitioners across the country have been left surprised, confused and disappointed at parliament’s decision to withdraw the Public Order Act from its table.
Reports from parliament indicate that the decision was communicated to the House by Hon. Matthew Nyuma Leader of government business referencing Parliamentary Standing Orders which indicate that a bill should not be laid in parliament for a specific period of time without a debate on it.
In simple terms this indicates that the house can no longer immediately debate the much anticipated Repeal of the Criminal libel laws.
If progress is to be made those involved must start the process from its Genesis.
It could be recalled that during campaigns leading to the March 2018 Presidential Elections *President Julius Maada Bio then flag bearer of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party noted on several occasions that journalists were practicing their profession in an environment that was not enabling.
According to Mohamed Rahman Swarray Minister of Information and Communication this state of affairs is primarily due to the existence of the 54 year old Criminal and Seditious Libel law of 1965.
‘’It was a campaign commitment we promised to do it and we have done that. It’s only now a matter of time it is not when or if, in the 54 year history of the criminal libel you will soon see its back”
He further noted that the draconian law has created a situation where the profession has not been able to attract the best of brains and the much needed investment.
For this reason government has taken an unprecedented step towards the laws repeal.
“Because of the state of the criminal libel law of 1965 the journalism profession was not able to attract the best and brightest of minds, except for those of you who have said dam the consequences am going to be there. But ordinarily it frightens a lot of people to go into shark infested waters”
Minister Swarray pointed out that government’s action will prove Sierra Leoneans who thought the promise was a lip service wrong, describing the Bio led government as a “Tok and Do administration”.
“We want to be able to attract much needed investment into the sector, we want to be able to attract the best and brightest minds that is why we have taken the unprecedented historic step to repeal the criminal libel law”
The Information Minister also informed press men that the law has already been gazetted.
Prior to the advent of COVID-19 the country’s information minister informed press men that his attention is focused on activities that will be rolled out after the repeal process including but not limited to effective public engagement whilst encouraging journalists to practice with the highest standards of professionalism even after the repeal.
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