There has been further progress in efforts to decriminalise libel in Liberia with the Senate voting unanimously on February 7, 2019 to approve amendments to the repressive sections of Liberia’s penal code.
It will be recalled that on May 31, 2018, President Weah, in a letter introducing the bill to the Legislature, said the Penal Code contravened Chapter 11, Article 15 of the Liberian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and expression.
Additionally, he said that Liberia is a signatory to the Table Mountain Declaration, which demands that African countries eliminate prison terms and detentions for press offenses.
The bill therefore sought to repeal Section 11.11, regarding Criminal Libel against the President; Section 11.12 on Sedition and Section 11.14 on Criminal Malevolence.
On July 3, 2018, the House of Representatives (Lower Chamber) approved the amendments. The Senate’s approval therefore means that the amendments now requires only presidential assent to come into effect.
The new legislation is named ‘the Kamara Abdullah Kamara Act of Press Freedom’ in honour of one of the country’s tireless press freedom advocates and former President of the Press Union of Liberia who died on April 17, 2018.
The MFWA welcomes this development as a positive move towards improving Liberia’s press freedom and freedom of expression environment. We commend Liberia’s Parliament for supporting the President’s effort to make Liberia’s laws more media-friendly.