Parliament Approves Bill to Decriminalise Libel

George Oppong Weah, President of Liberia

The lower chamber of the House of Representatives (Parliament) in Liberia has unanimously approved a bill to decriminalise libel. The majority (40 lawmakers) also voted to maintain ‘the Kamara Abdullah Kamara Act of Press Freedom’ as the official name of the law when passed.

The vote on July 3, 2018 on the Bill, titled, “An Act to Amend the Liberian Codes Revised, Penal Law of 1978, Chapter 11”, now awaits endorsement by the Senate and eventual assent by the Head of State to effectively repeal sections 11:11, 11.12 and 11.14, which are viewed as anti-free speech.

The Act is named in remembrance of the late Kamara Abdullah Kamara, former President of the Press Union of Liberia

The co-chairman of Joint Committee on Information, Culture and Tourism and Judiciary, Fonati Koffa, told the House:

“It has been determined that the Penal Law of Liberia contains some provisions, which have the tendency to impede freedom of speech and expression, contrary to the spirit and intent of the Table Mountain Declaration and other international conventions. We therefore recommend that the Plenary of the House of Representatives repeal the Law.”

The Executive Director of the Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP), Malcolm Joseph, said to repeal and amend Chapter 11 of the Liberian Codes Revised, Penal Law of 1978 is necessary to promote free speech and expression and to affect the human rights indicators.

Deputy Information Ministers, Daniel Gayou and Eugene Fahngon Nagbe, reaffirmed government’s commitment to upholding press freedom and freedom of expression as essential ingredients of democracy, good governance as well as the rule of law, which are indispensable to the development of any country.

It will be recalled that President Weah submitted the Kamara Abdullai Kamara Act of Press Freedom to the Legislature on May 31, 2018. The submission followed the failure of the last parliament to consider the earlier Bill introduced by President Johnson Sirleaf before last year’s elections.

The MFWA commends the House of Representatives for approving the Bill and urges the Senate to do same to remove the last remnant of anti-freedom laws on Liberia’s statutes.

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