Sierra Leone: Parliament May Not Repeal Libel Law

Leader of Government Business and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Appointment and Public Service, Hon. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, has expressed doubt as to whether the House would repeal Part 5 of the 1965 Public Order Act, which has got cabinet approval and gazetted.

Hon. Tunis who was speaking yesterday at Committee Room No.1 during the interview session of proposed board members of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) and the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) said the country lacks 'the necessary safety gears' to repeal the obnoxious law, which has been in existence for over 50 years.

He cautioned that there was no need to rush into repealing the 1965 Public Order Act, but rather strengthen the IMC as the sole governing body of the media.

"We are not even sure whether we are going to repeal it, because like my Hon. Acting Leader of the opposition was saying, we are not there yet. And my worry is that we still don't have the safety gears in place to repeal Part 5 of 1965 Public Order Act," he said.

Meanwhile, President Bio had told the just concluded United Nations General Assembly that his government has forwarded to parliament a bill to completely repeal a 54-year old law that criminalises libel, which has been used by past governments to imprison journalists and restrict press freedoms.

But Hon. Tunis said to the proposed board members that the bill was yet to reach the House.

"I just want to bring you back to the 1965 Public Order Act, you were talking about it repeal. We should not be in hast to repeal the Act. In fact the repeal bill has not reach parliament yet," he said

Hon. Tunis made the statement after the proposed board member to IMC, Emmanuel A. B Turay, enquired into how far parliament has gone with the bill.

Turay said the repeal has been gazetted after cabinet approval and that it might be on its way or have already been in parliament for consideration.

He urged MPS to treat and think of the country globally, since parliament can attest that the country has appended its signature to so many treaties around the world. He added that other countries are far ahead in dealing with the issue.

He stated that if the country should grow as other African countries, they must think of repealing the libel law, adding that the IMC Act is on its way for amendment.

He said there is no provision in the IMC code of ethics that stipulates punishment for social media defaulters, disclosing that plans were underway to addressing the said situation.

He said although there are challenges faced by the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) and IMC with regards the distribution of frequencies and licenses, the Ministry of Information and Communication is responsible to overseeing and monitoring the two of them.

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