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 “Government will not repeal criminal libel until…”

-Information Minister avers

May 8, 2017 By Memunatu Bangura

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Minister Deveaux…Be mindful that you would not remain as a minister forever and your statement would one day haunt you

Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Cornelius Deveaux, has vowed that government would not repeal  part five  (5) of the Public Order Act of 1965 until the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) meet certain criteria that were set by government.

Although the minister failed to mention some of the criteria, he said government was mindful of the fact that press freedom was striving in the country and that if SLAJ was asking government to review the said part of the law, it has the corresponding responsibility to inform and educate journalists that were in the habit of ‘misusing’ the media to the extent of posing threat to national security.

He was addressing journalists at the Ministry of Information and Communications weekly press briefing, Youyi Building in Freetown.

Cornelius stated that SLAJ should advise journalists to desist from ‘misusing’ social media.

Deputy minister stated that government have restrained itself from imposing regulation on the use of social media because it was perceived as a forum for inclusive participation that was relevant to the transformative progress of the country.

 “Journalists must discharge their duties in a responsible and respectable manner in accordance with the Media Code of Ethics. Journalists are infringing on the fundamental Rights and privacy of other people,” he added.

According to him, government has a responsibility to ensure free, fair and credible elections that should be accepted by all Sierra Leoneans and the world at large, adding that government was worried about the quality of journalists in the country, who, he said to a very large extent, were not adequately contributing to the development of a democratic and inclusive society.

“We have a responsibility to ensure free, fair, transparent and credible elections conducted in violent free atmosphere which result could be acceptable by  all. If social media will pose a threat to the conduct of free, fair, credible and violence free elections, government will have no other option but to do all that will be necessary and possible to ensure that we have free, fair and credible elections in a violence free environment,” he noted.

He mentioned that while it was not the wish for government to create impediment in people’s ability to freely communicate, but remained mindful that it will not tolerate anything that would undermine the success of the next general elections.

Meanwhile, the minister’s statement is in sharp contrast with the promise made by President Ernest Bai Koroma during his 2007 elections campaign, that when elected, he would repeal part five of the 1965 Public Order Act, which crimilize libel.

Having  practised as a journalist up to the rank of an editor, albeit for the ruling APC We Yone Newspaper, his statement has been regarded by many as anti-democratic.

He was in 2016 appointed Deputy Minister of Information and Communications amidst huge controversy as to his academic credentials.

 

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