FROM TIME IN memorial, the Liberian media through the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has been striving to ensure that some media related offences be decriminalized. This struggle which has led to serious interaction between the Government of Liberia and the media seems to be on its way to yielding fruits as it has been reported that legislation will be presented by President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf to the National legislature in this regard.
THE PRESIDENT, DURING her state of the nation address said government intends to lead a legacy of tolerance thereby charging the Liberian media with improving on its professionalism and responsibility.
Even though the President in making the pronouncement described as ‘mutually independent’ her government’s partnership with the Liberian media in the year under review, the Liberian leader said, “We will hold them responsible for adherence to our policies and laws.”
AS IF THAT was to remind the media about other laws and policies to which it must adhere, President Sirleaf included the need to speedily pass into law, the decriminalization of media-related offences in keeping with the table Mountain Declaration.
PRESIDENT SIRLEAF NOTED particularly the lengthy debates and reviews by stakeholders on the Table Mountain Declaration and admitted that her government has consented to its urgent passage because it is the right thing to do.
THE LIBERIAN LEADER said though the partnership has been sometimes rocky; on the overall, it has been frank and open and reminded the media landscape to play its part being cognizant that it comprises of 35 newspapers and 80 radio stations while at the same time lauding the media for the level of cooperation reportage on the Ebola crisis which kept citizens fully informed on the situation.
HAVING NAMED SEVERAL pieces of different legislations, some of which have already been submitted while some are yet pending for submission on the law to decriminalize media-related offences, President Sirleaf said, “This repealed law will advance our democratic aspirations and foster unhindered public debates.”
SHE THEN EXPRESSED hope that it will improve rather than retard the growing media landscape of the country, and again testified to government’s commitment to an opened society ably supported by a responsible and independent press.
THE MOVE TO decriminalize media-related offence is not only a welcome initiative but a move to truly strengthen Liberia’s democratic gains made thus far and further concretize the much talked-about free speech and press freedom. As agreed with the President that such legislation will improve the media landscape in the country, we seriously join her, in appealing to the National Legislature to expedite this into law as it will also ensure that proper tangible news would be disseminated for the good of the public that elected these lawmakers.
IN THIS REGARD, we equally urge media practitioners to begin a process that will stimulate a sound lobbying process for the urgent passage of this law.
WITH SPECIFIC REFERENCE to the signing of the Table Mountain declaration when people of democratic thinking around the Globe began raining praises on the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf led administration, the passage of a law to decriminalize media related offences will go down in history as one of the administration’s achievement which any succeeding government would find difficult to undo.
IN THIS REGARD the PUL and her international partners must now start to interact with the National Legislature in ensuring that without delay, this is passed into law. Again, we welcome this move by the Government of Liberia specifically the Executive Branch. “IT WILL HOLD!”