Responding to the decision to repeal Part 5 of the Public Order Act of 1965 which criminalised defamation, false news and seditious libel, Fatou Jagne Senghore, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 West Africa said:
“ARTICLE 19 welcomes this timely and progressive decision by the government and the final vote in parliament on 23 July. This is a step in the right direction and will undoubtedly contribute to strengthening media freedom, free speech, right to information and protection of journalists in the Sierra Leone.”
The rights to freedom of expression and access to information are cornerstones of democracy and key to ensuring the enjoyment of other human rights. The right to free speech on important issues in the society is essential in bringing out change. People need access to information and free speech to enable them to hold those in power accountable. For so many years, these anti media provisions have been used by politicians and influential individuals to stifle expression and undermine journalistic scrutiny.
The criminal defamation and seditious libel law provisions have been a real thorn in the side of the media leading to repression and self-censorship. Media and free speech organisations in Sierra Leone have for so many years advocated for the repeal of these provisions.
“ARTICLE 19 calls on the government and parliament to take this opportunity to review the whole Public Order Act and bring it in line with the rights to freedom of assembly, association and protest. We are committed to support stakeholders to ensure the revised Public Order Act aligns with international standards on freedom of expression and access to information”, concluded Fatou Jagne Sengore.
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