Information Minister: Government Committed to Repeal Criminal Libel Law

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July 17, 2018

By Ibrahim Tarawallie

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Information Minister Mohamed Rahman Swaray

Minister of Information and Communications has reiterated the current government’s commitment to repealing the criminal and seditious libel sections of the 1965 Public Order Act.

Mohamed Rahman Swaray was speaking last Friday (July 13) at the official opening of the Annual General Meeting of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), themed: “Post Elections 2018: The media’s role in enhancing democracy in Sierra Leone”.

SLAJ, Society for Democratic Initiative (SDDI) and other interested civil society organisations have been calling for a repeal of the criminal libel law. While campaigning for the presidency, President Julius Maada Bio promised to repeal the draconian law upon assuming office.

According to Minister Swaray, the government was not only making a mere commitment, but would ensure the law, which many refer to as obnoxious and outdated, is repealed.

“Let me say this and let me be on record, our government is committed to repealing part five of the criminal libel law. When we say it as Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) government, we mean every word of what we have said about this law. This is not just a commitment for us but we will repeal it,” he assured.

Already, the minister stated that they are firing on all cylinders as they seek partners and interested parties, including SLAJ, to actualise the repeal dream.

Speaking on the Transition Report, the Information Minister claimed that some section of the media are being used by members of the opposition to dismiss it as ‘bogus and witch-hunt.’

He said persons named in the report will have their day in court, to defend themselves in an open and transparent trial that will be free from fear.

He called for greater accountability and responsibility by the media as they seek to confront myriad issues of nation building, and challenged journalists to go out and seek the truth so that lives can be saved.

Earlier, SLAJ President Kelvin Lewis said: “The last administration promised us for ten years that they will repeal and later said they will review the criminal and seditious libel laws. That was a promised unfulfilled, a demand unmet and a manifesto commitment undelivered.”

Lewis noted that as they are on the brink of again concluding discussions on the repeal of the law, their hope is that it becomes promise fulfilled this time around.

He cautioned delegates that even though their role as media practitioners is normally seen as controversial, they must be positive in their criticisms.

“The media must also be peace makers. We must endeavour to bring feuding parties together and not be involved in fostering conflict even though we thrive more during conflict situations,” he said.

Auxiliary Bishop of Kenema Diocese, His Grace Henry Aruna, urged journalists to always seek truth in a polite manner, while respecting the views of others.

“Journalists should have a wide range of knowledge and interest in issues to be able to perform their role effectively,” he said.