18 January 2013

Liberia: Ellen to Remove Draconian Laws

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as part of her legislative agenda for 2013 is to remove some draconian laws from the books in a bid to promote free speech and the Press. According to Information Minister, Mr. Lewis G. Brown, President Sirleaf intends to repeal section 11.11, 11.12 and 11.13 of the Penal Code which include criminal libel against the President among others.

Speaking at a Liberia Media Law Reform Roundtable in Monrovia yesterday, Minister Brown urged the Liberian Media to be self regulatory. The Information Minister said Liberia should continue to have press that is increasingly free saying "that is all democracy is about."

He reiterated government's commitment to working with the Liberian Media saying "we are not going to go after journalists or "join the list". Minister Brown said while there are responsible people practicing a noble profession such as journalism, there are others who are joining in and their operation is bringing the profession to public ridicule.

Minister Brown told media practitioners at the ceremony that they must be self regulatory and report nothing but the facts, saying "you have a friend in us. We will work with you and we will pass the laws you need us to pass."

He said while the government is doing all that promotes free speech and the press the media needs to do its job in a responsible manner because to whom much is given much is required.

He lauded community radios through out the country for their promotion of health messages, hygiene and bringing news to the people, noting that there is an allocation in this year's budget for community radios.

On the issue of enacting a law to make the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) a public broadcaster, Minister Brown said, "All of us want a better public broadcaster. We want to feel the owner but I am emphasizing caution in doing so."

Also speaking at the program both Chairpersons of the Liberia Senate and House of Representatives, Senator Henry Yallah and Representative Richmond Anderson expressed good sentiments and renewed their commitment to improving Press Freedom.

Senator Yallah said the three media reform laws submitted to the 52nd Legislature according to their rules should be re-submitted for the attention of the 53rd Legislature.

The two-day Liberia Media Reform Roundtable is organized by the Center for Media Studies and Peace-Building (CEMESP) in partnership with the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), the Liberia Media Center with support from UNESCO and IREX.

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