The government of Liberia was due to introduce a media bill before the national assembly – a bill that seeks to revoke a set of laws obstructing free reporting, The New Dawn newspaper reported recently, adding that the laws include criminal libel, sedition and criminal malevolence.
The announcement was made by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf during the state of the nation address. However, Johnson-Sirleaf said while press freedom was important, it went with responsibility. The newspaper said the president noted that due to inadequacies in reportage by the media, perceptions were being formed and rumour circulated in the society.
Analysts believe the abolition of these ‘archaic’ and ‘repressive’ laws will give a serious reprieve to critical journalists who have been severely intimidated, persecuted and others jailed, especially under the regime of former dictator and warlord Charles Taylor.
Taylor is now serving his 50-year prison sentence for crimes against humanity at the Hague in the Netherlands.
“Liberia must be a country where an untrue story about the government and its functionaries can be corrected by the power of the truth told, intelligently, by functionaries of government and not by the use of police power,” New Dawn quoted Liberia human rights lawyer Tiawan S. Gongloe as saying.
Gongloe is said to have made the call to the government to repeal these laws earlier on.
Liberia was ranked 97th – 13 places up compared to 2012 – by the Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) World Press Freedom 2013 Index. RSF said: “In Liberia, the presidential election in November 2011 had been tainted by the closure of several media outlets and attacks on journalists. In 2012, the atmosphere improved greatly.
“In the summer, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the second African head of state, after Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, to sign the Declaration of Table Mountain, thereby undertaking to promote media freedom.”
*Photo by Sfcg.org