7 May 2018

Sierra Leone: Information Minister Vows to Expunge Criminal Libel Law

Minister of Information and Communications designate, Mohamed Rahman Swarray, last Thursday assured Members of Parliament that if approved, he would expunge the criminal libel laws that impedes journalists from carrying out their duties effectively and efficiently.

While responding to a question posed by the Deputy Chairman of the Appointment and Public Service Committee, Hon. Mathew S. Nyuma, Swaray said journalists everywhere in the world abhor criminal libel laws, adding that the latter should be given free atmosphere to carry out their work.

He said the importance of an enabling legal environment for press freedom - giving special attention to the role of an independent Judiciary in ensuring legal guarantees for press freedom and the prosecution of crimes against journalists - should not be over-emphasised.

"We believe as a government journalists should not be criminalised but create an atmosphere that will help them carry out their work effectively. Removing the criminal libel law will help them do their work accurately. We are aware of the rules that guide them, including the Independent Media Commission Act and Code of Conduct. We have to empower and strengthen the IMC in order to regulate them thoroughly without interference," he said.

On the issue of 'reckless journalism,' he noted that the IMC together with Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Women in the Media (WIMSAL) and other stakeholders should help to regulate their work.

President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Kelvin Lewis, had during World Press Freedom Day on May 3 called on President Julius Maada Bio and his Sierra Leone Peoples Party-led government to repeal the obnoxious Part Five of the 1965 Public Order Act of 1965 that has been used to jail journalists.

"For ten years we were promised the repeal of the criminal libel laws. We are mindful that it is again a commitment in the SLPP manifesto. We look forward to having a constructive dialogue to see how this can be achieved in the shortest possible time."

Meanwhile, Minister of Internal Affairs designate, Hon. Edward Soloku, assured committee members that robust security would be deployed at Parliament building to protect Members of Parliament.

"I know that the country is governed by rules and regulations, therefore if you are an MP, identify yourself wherever and whenever the need arises in order to avoid embarrassment from the Sierra Leone Police. I know that we have many porous borders, but mechanisms are being put in place to address the situation," he assured.

The following nominees also faced the committee: Hon. Emma Kowa Jalloh -proposed Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resource; Alhaji Alpha Tejan Wurie - proposed Minister of Health and Sanitation; Alhaji Kanja I. Sesay - proposed Minister of Energy; Brig. Rtd. Simeon Nasiru Sheriff - proposed Deputy Minister of Defence; Jacob Jusu Saffa - proposed Minister of Finance and Economic Development; Kabineh M. Kallon - proposed Minister of Transport and Aviation; Dr. Jonathan B. Tengbeh - proposed Minister of Water Resources; and Adekulay King - proposed Minister of Labour and Social Security.

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