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Liberian president pledges to decriminalise media offenses

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf speaks during an interview with Reuters in Brussels, 25 November 2013
Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf speaks during an interview with Reuters in Brussels, 25 November 2013

REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

This statement was originally published by the Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding on 29 January 2015 .

The Executive Director of the Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding, (CEMESP) Malcolm W. Joseph has expressed delight over President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's recent State of the Nation address, insofar as it reaffirms the government's commitment to decriminalize media offenses.

Delivering the State of the Nation's address on January 26, 2015, Madam Sirleaf said her government is committed to foster a free and democratic media.

The President alluded to the Declaration of Table Mountain (DTM) that was signed by her government to repeal media offenses.

In December of 2014, the Center for Media studies and Peacebuilding, Press Union of Liberia and other Liberian media stakeholders submitted to the Liberian Legislature – through the House of Representatives – an Act to Decriminalize the Violation of the Right to Freedom of Expression and to Repeal Certain Sections of the Panel Law of 1978.

President Sirleaf says her government is resolved to repeal all anti media laws that are inconsistent with the DTM, urging the 53rd legislature of Liberia to act fast in that regard.

President Sirleaf has alluded to these efforts in her address as it relates to safeguarding press freedom in engendering and open society that fosters diversity of thoughts in deepening democracy and other human rights.

“We enjoin other players, especially our lawmakers, on oath for national service to complement the president's goodwill intention in making good on this promise that will further boost the profile of Liberia on the international scene,” Joseph says in a statement.

CEMESP seizes the opportunity to appeal to all journalists and media workers to not only celebrate the statement from the throne, but to consider it as a big challenge in exhibiting a high degree of professional and ethical standards to win public confidence.

“Journalists must be prepared to submit to self-regulation and peer review as a means of wresting regulation from outside, as it can be prone to abuse," the CEMESP statement adds.

CEMESP played a leadership role – in league with the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers – to ensure that Liberia signed onto the Declaration of Table Mountain in July 2012. The center has also been facilitating dialogue for the needed reforms leading to the submission of media bills for enactment.

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