Is Sierra Leone about to repeal its criminal libel laws?

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 July 2019:

Sierra Leone’s minister of information – Mohamed Rahman Swarray, told reporters at his usual weekly press briefing in Freetown, that the Bio-led government of Sierra Leone is on course to repeal the 1965 Criminal Libel Law, that has been used so often by politicians to harass, intimidate and incarcerate journalists.

If this news is anything to go by, the repeal is expected to be made before the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, which will open on 17th September 2019, where president Bio will speak about his government’s policy towards the media.

“I want to talk to you about it when I can say – look ladies and gentlemen it is my greatest pleasure to inform you that true to His Excellency’s prior commitment to repeal the criminal libel laws,  we have finally done it,” said information minister Mohamed Rahman Swarray.

He informed reporters that the repeal process is now on course, and expressed confidence that one of the key messages in the president’s presentation to the UN General Assembly later this year, is that sierra Leone has joined the global community of nations with respect to media freedom.

But the minister admonished journalists to do their work professionally, pointing out that media professionals have a responsibility to do what is right.

The minister further pledged government’s willingness to work with the new SLAJ executive and other stakeholders to ensure the media landscape is changed for the better.

But a local journalist who spoke earlier today to the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph, said: “Yes we have heard about this so called repeal of the criminal libel laws, but I am not confident it will make any difference. The president has fortified the Independent Media Commission (IMC) with his party supporters and cronies, who are now running the IMC that is making life difficult for journalists. I cannot see how the repael of the Act is going to promore press freedoms in the country”.

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