…Minister of Information
September 13, 2019
By Patrick Jaiah Kamara
Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rahaman Swaray, has told newsmen at the usual government press briefing that the repeal of Part 5 of the Public Order Act of 1965 is not a license to reckless journalism.
The Minister said the more than 50 year old Public Order Act of 1965 has got cabinet’s approval and would soon be sent to parliament for approval.
“The repeal is not a cart bag to become reckless or to say bye-bye to professional journalism. It is not a license to irresponsible journalism. It is more or less to open the space for media practitioners and to fulfill our promise to the media. President Bio is a man of his word, he is committed to free press,” he said.
He said successive governments have not been ‘audacious enough’ to repeal the obnoxious law that has taken many journalists to prison, even though they had promised to repeal it, but that President Bio has honoured his promise, thus describing him as ‘Talk and do president’.
“Cabinet yesterday passed it resoundingly and we are now taking the next step to take it to parliament. This is something you (Journalists) have prayed for many years. President Bio is about to set another record,” he said.
The minister said the government of President Bio was the first to have budgeted from the national economy for journalists because they thought the media is playing a critical role in national development.
He added that he has also talked to his colleague ministers to be organizing training for specialized journalism, thus singling out the Ministry of Fishery who were their guest speaker.
He said their government was of the opinion that maintaining Part VI of the said Act was not good for a country like Sierra Leone that is aspiring to be a respected member of the international committee.
He noted that the government was aware of the fact that the repeal would bring challenges, but that in as much as there was the willingness to repeal the Act, they will not leave the reputation of government officials and private citizens to hang in the balance because there were remedies to ensure that they do not suffer any abuse from reckless journalism.
He added that the government had had good relationship with the Sierra Leone Association of Journalist, the Media Reform Coordinating Group and other interested media parties for the repeal of the Act.
He said they are going to strengthen the Independent Media Commission (IMC) in order to enhance the professionalism of journalists, thus warning that the repeal of the Act would also have consequences for defaulters.
“If one takes a decision as an editor or a reporter to publish something that is libelous which cannot be proved, you will be convicted in court and you will be dealt with legally,” he concluded.