Gov’t To Repeal Criminal Libel Law - In Fulfillment of Table Mountain Protocol
The Government of Liberia has begun a process to decriminalize libel law against the media to enhance critical reportage in the country. A bill seeking to decriminalize libel is expected to be submitted to the 53rd Legislature next week.
This means when the bill is enacted into law, the media here would be exempt from all criminal libel(s) claims from the public. Liberia’s Minister for Information, Culture and Tourism Lewis G. Brown made the disclosure Wednesday, while addressing the opening of a 3-day international media conference in Monrovia.
The meeting is being hosted by the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) on the eve of World Press Freedom Day today, May 3rd. Participating journalists are from Sierra Leone, Cote D’Ivoire, Liberia and elsewhere within West Africa as well as international partners.
“The legal arm of the presidency has been instructed to work on the bill for its formal submission to the national legislature next week,” Minister Brown said. He said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has accepted to sit at the Table Mountain Protocol in decriminalizing libel law against the Liberian media.
The protocol was adopted in 2007 at the World Congress of Newspapers held in Cape Town, South Africa. The Lead Consultant on the Abolition of Abuse Amadou Konaute, recently visited Liberia and met with officials of the Press Union of Liberia and several Liberian journalists on the campaign, which seeks to repeal criminal defamation in Africa.
He said 12 African countries have come up with press codes that repeal repressive penalty against the media. “It is our professional duty as media to make sure what we write do not just affect people wrongly”, Konaute emphasized.
Information Minister Brown, who frowned at the media for writing sensational headlines, said journalists should exercise “sense of professionalism and ethical guidance. Do not be called Joint-the-list (journalist), but be the trained one in the career.”
“Stop publishing sensational and paid for story(s) and be a professional. However, these are not government responsibility because all of these help to nurture democracy,” said the MICAT boss.
Meanwhile, the government is expected to shortly name a media commissioner. Already, candidates are being vetted and a shortlist is pending.
“We’re trying to remove from our society the taboo of silence. It is the public right to know what their leaders are doing. Therefore, one who understands Freedom of Information needs to be appointed,” Brown said.