President Sirleaf Opens Two-Day Media, Law and Reform Confab; Calls for Accountable, Responsible, Professional Media; Enjoins Legislature to Repeal Sedition cum Criminal Libel Laws

Tuesday, 10th May 2016
President Sirleaf making remarks at the Media Law and  Regulatory Conference in Monrovia.
President Sirleaf making remarks at the Media Law and Regulatory Conference in Monrovia.
Photo Credit: James M.Garresen / Executive Mansion
Monrovia, Liberia - President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has opened a Two-Day “Media Law and Regulatory Reform Stakeholders’ Conference in Monrovia
According to an Executive Mansion release, the two-day conference is being organized at the behest of Internews (Liberia Media Development Program) in partnership with Albany Associates of the UK, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and Accountability Lab aimed at leading the media law and regulatory reform agenda of a democratically transitioning nation.  
President acknowledged the world-wide experience of Internews with a view to empowering media in more than 90 countries – thereby counting on such leverage to assist the local media become more accountable, responsible and professional in their service to our country. 
The Liberian leader said her administration fully subscribes to and is committed to offering government’s partnership in the reform agenda; the objective that places emphasis on equipping and empowering the local media not just for sustainability of media houses but equipping them with the tools and skills that will enable them to place country above self. 
She observed that when we ensure or underscore sustainability it calls for quality in newsgathering and packaging for a news-hungry population. 
She challenged the organizers that: “As you embark on strengthening both the legal and normative means to achieving an enabling environment for a freer media – the onus is on all and sundry to enjoin media practitioners on the need to curb deliberate ethical transgressions, which have become commonplace – thus eroding the foundation of freedom of  speech and the press”. 
This administration, President Sirleaf emphasized, has made significant contributions to the administration of media respect and sustainability. Among which is the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act of 2010 – for which I was honored as “Friend of the Media” by the Africa Editors’ Forum. Liberia, she said is noted for making history and as you all know – our country holds an enviable record as the first country in West Africa to have made this accomplishment.
“Our political tolerance is manifested by allowing freedom of speech as a fundamental civil liberty and sine qua none of democratic value system, and as such never before have we seen the multiplicity of newspapers and proliferation of radio stations (some of which have violated our laws by continuing to be unregistered and non-tax compliant, some in the promotion of politics rather than journalism)” President Sirleaf indicated. 
She wondered: “What does our country seek to benefit when the watchdogs watching over society remain unregulated”? If we must progress, “The media must first be accountable in as much as they demand accountability” – she warned. 
She recalled that “When we signed the Table Mountain Declaration in 2012, it was and still is with the interest to repeal the sedition laws and criminal libel laws.  This has taken some time with the full involvement of some civil society organizations.  Let me commit to you that this matter will be brought to closure within 60 days” assured.
The Liberia Chief executive noted that: “As we progress along the course of our democratic and recovery paths, we urge the media to act in recognition of the power you have in shaping minds and changing attitudes, shaping public opinion – mobilizing communities for community development – fostering reconciliation, building and helping to sustain the peace”. 
She said we believe that: “A constructive media, while reserving the right to independence and the role of a watchdog can promote or destroy the environment for private investment and the economic growth, which results with benefits to all including the media”.
She thanked Internews and partners for an initiative that will scrupulously examine the Media and Law in our country on account of how it helps our growth and cements the current democratic space. 
In separate remarks, Internews Chief of Party, Henri-Paul Bolap, Ambassador Tina Intelmann, USAID County Mission Director, Mr. Anthony Chan and the House and Senate Committees on Information and Broadcasting – Hon. Richmond Anderson and Senator J. Milton Teahjay expressed the hope that the two-day conference on Media and Law Reform will produce the desirable results aimed at achieving the overall objectives of the deliberations.