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Withdrawal of Repeal Criminal Libel Bill…

SLAJ Prexy hopes for the better

June 8, 2020

President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists has expressed optimism that, despite the fact that the Sierra Leone Parliament has withdrawn the Repeal Bill of the Criminal Libel Law, Members of Parliament would unanimously expunge the most hated Part Five of the 1965 Public Order Act, which criminalises libel.

‘‘Despite the recent withdrawal of the repeal bill in Parliamentary proceedings we continue to be hopeful for this law to be expunged by our Honourable MPs. This is just a pot hole along the way. We have no reason to be pessimistic when we consider how far we have come and how near we are now to the finish line,’’ said

Ahmed Sahid Nasralla.

Former Leader of Government Business and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Appointment and Public Service, Hon. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, had initially expressed doubt as to whether the House would repeal Part 5 of the 1965 Public Order Act, after the bill had gotten cabinet approval and gazetted.

Hon. Tunis who was speaking yesterday at Committee Room No.1 during the interview session of proposed board members of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) and the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), said the country lacks ‘the necessary safety gears’ to repeal the obnoxious law, which has been in existence for over 50 years.

He cautioned that there was no need to rush into repealing the 1965 Public Order Act, but rather strengthen the IMC as the sole governing body of the media.

 “We are not even sure whether we are going to repeal it, because like my Hon. Acting Leader of the opposition was saying, we are not there yet. And my worry is that we still don’t have the safety gears in place to repeal Part 5 of 1965 Public Order Act,” he said.

His prediction came to reality last week when Parliament withdrawn the bill without debating it.

Speaking during the 49th anniversary of the association, President Nasralla   noted that, to strengthen our advocacy and engagement ‘‘we are in the process of forming a SLAJ Criminal Libel Repeal Lobbying Group to engage key personalities in the Legislature to get their buy in. This group will consist mainly of members who have access to the corridors of power, so they also will use their influence to build support for the repeal.’’

He admonished colleague journalists to practise strictly by the rules and used the occasion to congratulate surviving founding and veteran members of the association.

Meanwhile, the Minister Information and Communications, Mohamed Rahman  Swaray, according to report, is making frantic efforts to ensure that the bill returns to parliament and gets deliberated on and passed into law.

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