December 7, 2018
By Ibrahim Tarawallie
President Julius Maada Bio has assured journalists that his government would not, in any way, interfere with the independence of the Independent Media Commission (IMC).
According to the president, the government was ready and prepared to ensure the IMC is respectable, truly effective and independent.
He was speaking at the Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel Wednesday, December 5, during the inaugural cocktail organised by the Office of the Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman for media practitioners across the country.
President Bio, in his address, expressed empathy for veteran journalist George Khoryama, after the ‘uncomplimentary’ statement from SLAJ following his appointment by the president, but thanked the Veteran Journalists Union for standing by him during those difficult times.
“Like any great fraternity, I am delighted that Mr. Khoryama has now received the fullest support from SLAJ, which is really pleasing to note,” said President Bio.
On the repeal of the criminal libel law, President Bio noted that everyone was aware that Part Five of the Public Order Act of 1965 criminalises any publication that is deemed defamatory or seditious, adding that it had been used to unduly target media practitioners and silence dissident views.
He said that while the Act might not have been passed to muzzle the press, the wording clearly put every citizen’s rights to free speech in jeopardy.
“The good news is that we will soon be ending the bridge. Part Five of the Public Order Act of 1965 will be repealed in the shortest possible time. Therefore, I am pleased to inform you that a Cabinet Paper on the full concurrence of the Attorney General is now before Ccabinet for consideration,” President Bio revealed.
He spoke about plans by his administration to open up the media sector to new investment and growth and foster creativity and innovation for the development of high quality journalism.
The president also paid tribute to the late editor of the New Age Newspaper, Ibrahim Samura, describing him as a brave and fearless journalist who lost his life while demanding credible elections. He also praised the heroism of Concord Times’ Patrick Jaiah Kamara, whom he reckoned is living with the scares of the beating and physical attack during April’s presidential poll.
“Never again should we have a government of politicians who leave their duty to protect journalists and become the perpetrators. Journalism is not a crime and no election is worth more than the life of a journalist,” he assured.