Minister of Information and Communications Mohamed Bangura in his Keynote speech yesterday at the Miatta Conference Hall during the National Symposium to repeal Part Five of the 1965 Public Order Act, has said the Criminal Libel Law is very bad and needs to be expunged from our law books.
Giving his address, the minister said he wants to commend the SLAJ president for his quiet diplomacy as well as the two British Jerry and Steve that have been working assiduously to get the law out of the books.
“I want to tell you that I am not in this alone as I have the Attorney General who has been supporting me and both of us have been working with other groups to repeal this law.”
Mr Bangura said the symposium is for all to come together and work together and find another law to replace this one and he appealed to all to get it done.
“As long as I am Minister of Information this law will be repealed because it is not only affecting journalists but all citizens. Journalism these days has become more responsible with less and less complaints at the IMC. The media has surpassed all expectations.”
He called on all journalists to do their work properly by cross-checking all stories and they should not use the profession to blackmail or destroy others.
“I want to make this very clear, I am not pushing for the repealing of this law because I was a victim, I am pushing for it to be repealed because it is a bad law and because our President had made a commitment that he will remove it from our law books.”
He called on all to be patriotic and work in accordance with the law. He said for those who want to prosecute journalists, they can go civil and they will still have justice.
All the speakers at the opening of the symposium including Mr John Callahan of Irish Aid, Annup Vyas from British High Commission, Mr Mohamed Lamin Tarawally of the Bar Association, Francis Sowa from IMC and the president of SLAJ Kelvin Lewis, all commended the ministry of information for the bold step they have taken to get this draconian law off the books and ask for responsible journalism to be practiced by journalists.
John Callahan said the minister has shown good leadership and the repealing of this criminal libel, will change the face of Sierra Leone and will help rasie the country’s profile internationally.
Annup Vyas said the British government is committed to working with the government to get the law out and that will give the country more credence in fighting corruption and be accountable to the people.
Mohamed Lamin Tarawally said they are happy that the ministry has gone so far with the repealing of the law and they are in consensus with the populace. He said the benefit of free speech cannot be overstated.
Francis Sowa said that the IMC has been working assiduously with SLAJ, MRCG and other bodies to repeal the law and make journalism more responsible and respectable. The Symposium will end today after they would have been able to find a replacement for the Criminal Libel Law.