Sierra Leone: IFJ Hails Repeal of Criminal Defamation Law

press release

Sierra Leone: IFJ hails repeal of criminal defamation law

The Sierra Leone Parliament has unanimously repealed on 23 July its criminal libel law. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) to celebrate a great victory for freedom of expression and press freedom.

Parliamentarians unanimously approved on 23 July the Independent Media Commission (IMC) Act 2020 and repealed the 1965 Public Order Act (POA) that criminalized libel and sedition.

In a statement celebrating the repeal of the libel law, SLAJ said: "the biggest beneficiary of the repeal of this bad law is Sierra Leone. Our beloved country has now joined the enviable community of progressive nations where free and responsible speech is guaranteed and protected by law. This is a huge milestone for freedom of expression and democracy in Sierra Leone."

The President of SLAJ, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, said: "Freedom comes with great power, and great power comes with great responsibility. By repealing Part 5 of the Public Order Act 1965, you have given us great freedom to do our work without fear or favour. Equally so, by enacting the new IMC Bill 2020, you have reminded us of the great responsibility that goes with that freedom. How we maintain that delicate balance is what all of us journalists should work towards as we go beyond the repeal".

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said that the repeal of the derogatory law would grant journalists more freedom to carry out their professional duties, which will enhance quality journalism. "Criminal defamation laws have no place in a democratic society and have been widely used by autocratic governments to silence the media and jail journalists. We encourage all states on the African continent that have adopted such repressive law to repeal them in the interest of democracy and freedom of expression."

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