13 May 2013

Liberian Government Calls On Press Union to Recant Decision On News Blackout

Photo: IRIN
Liberians scan a newspaper (file photo).

The Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism has called on the leadership of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) to reconsider and reverse its "news blackout" decision on the government.

According to a MICAT release issued over the weekend in Monrovia, the "news blackout" which was recently announced by the leadership of the PUL does not only threaten to undermine the collective achievements of the Liberian people and their government in advancing the causes of free speech and the press but also unjustifiably penalizes innocent Liberians by denying them their right to information about the activities and functions of their government.

The MICAT release quoted Deputy Information Minister Isaac Jackson as saying that the right of the people to know is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Liberian Constitution, and therefore, each stakeholder to information dissemination, including the PUL, has a compelling duty to the people not only to uphold this right but also to resist any temptation to restrict its continuous exercise and practice.

"It was this right of the people to information which obliged the government, working along with other stakeholders, including the PUL, to pass the Freedom of Information Law which is being hailed as one of the best in the world", the Deputy Information Minister noted.

Minister Jackson further observed that amongst the many important first-time actions taken by this administration to create a more opened society by increasing access to information and by consistently removing impediments to the exercise of freedom of speech and the press, the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led administration is currently concluding a draft legislation intended to decriminalize media related offenses in the country, as required under the Table Mountain Declaration, to which the government has already acceded.

According to Minister Jackson, the commitment of the Government of Liberia to continuously expand the space for free speech is "irreversibly established and overwhelmingly self-evident".

Therefore, the Minister continued, "especially at this time of such recorded progress and change, it defies the imagination that a free press would bind itself to self-censorship, and by its own consideration and action, deliberately deny the Liberian people of their fundamental right to information about their government."

The MICAT release however reassured the Liberian people that under the watchful eyes of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Government of Liberia will continue on its settled course of democratic governance which includes the unhindered exercise of freedoms and rights in the country in keeping with the rule of law.

"We look forward to always constructively engage the PUL, and all advocates of rights and freedoms in the country, in building a society that is democratic, freer, more tolerant and expressive", Deputy Information Minister Isaac Jackson concluded.

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