Sierra Leone’s parliament on Thursday voted unanimously to repeal the country’s 55-year-old criminal libel law.
For 55 years any person found to have maliciously published any defamatory matter knowing the same to be false was guilty of an offence called libel.
The person is liable on conviction to imprisonment for any term not exceeding three years or to a fine or both.
With the latest repeal, persons such as journalists who often are convicted using the law can heave a sigh of relief.
Many media persons have been celebrating the move by Sierra Leone’s lawmakers, a significant step in deepening free press.
Breaking News: #SierraLeone’s parliament has just unanimously repealed the 55-year-old criminal libel law.
— Umaru Fofana (@UmaruFofana) July 23, 2020
Sierra Leone’s President, Julius Maada Bio, a former military leader in 2018 when he took office said “This is the dawn of a new era. The people of this great nation have voted to take a new direction”.
“We have only one country, Sierra Leone, and we are all one people,” Bio who briefly ruled Sierra Leone in 1996 added.
He told journalists later in December of 2018 that the criminal libel law “has been used as a regime to unduly target and imprison media practitioners and silence dissident views.”
“Therefore, I am pleased to inform you that a Cabinet paper with full concurrence from the Attorney General is now before Cabinet for consideration.
It is my honest and genuine view that Part Five of the Public Order Act of 1965 should be repealed and will be repealed in the shortest possible time,” President Bio said.
He seems to believe that a free press could also help in the growth of the country.
Sierra Leone witnessed a brutal, diamond-fuelled civil war in the 1990s and the new president has been on a mission to fix the West African country’s economy, still recovering from the war and recent Ebola epidemic.