19.12.2018 07:06 Age: 190 days
Category: Media Matters
Victory for Sierra Leonne media as two restrictive laws face imminent repeal.
President Maada Bio also delivers on promise to support SLAJ
Sierra Leonne President Julius Maada Bio has revealed plans to scrap off the unpopular criminal libel and sedation laws “in the shortest possible time”.
Maada Bio, who made the revelation during his maiden media cocktail meeting earlier this month, conceded to the fact that the two laws, which are enshrined in Part Five of Sierra Leonne’s Public Order Act , “had been used as a regime to unduly target and imprison media practitioners and silence dissident views”.
The laws mean that a person who publishes defamatory material is guilty of libel and, on conviction, is punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment not exceeding two years. This penalty poses a threat to the freedom of expression rights, not only of journalists but of all citizens.
Speaking at the meeting, Maada Bio said: “It is my honest and genuine view that Part Five of the Public Order Act of 1965 should be repealed and will be repealed in the shortest possible time".
“I am pleased to inform you that a Cabinet paper with full concurrence from the Attorney General is now before Cabinet for consideration”, said the president of the Acts.
The good news didn’t end there as Maada Bio further announced that the media development support fund promised earlier in his campaign before he was elected into power in March 2017, was ready for disbursement to the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ).
"I am pleased to inform you that it has been budgeted for and is available to access as and when you are ready without any preconditions. The ball is now in your court," the president said.
Sierra Leonne has had its tussles with media gagging in the past, especially in relation to criminal libel and sedation. It was just last year when the chief editor of The New Age newspaper, Ibrahim Samura, was charged with four counts of sedition and criminal libel. Donald Theo Harding and Thomas Dixon - both of Salone Times newspaper - were also charged with ten counts of sedition and criminal libel.