Journalists Extol Pres. Sirleaf For Signing The Table Mountain Declaration
On the eve of the commemoration of Liberia’s 165th Independence Anniversary, a cross-section of Liberians including journalists and media practitioners in the country and abroad have hailed President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
for the bold step she has taken to enhance press freedom and freedom of expression in the Country with the signing of the Table Mountain Declaration last Saturday, July 21, 2012.
According to an official of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), the essence of President Sirleaf appending her signature to this all important document, that significantly removes barriers that may pose as hindrance for journalists in the discharge of their duties is that like the introduction of multiparty democracy which is today being practiced under President in the country, with an optimum degree of fairness and transparency devoid of any hidden agenda.
A journalist at the Liberia Broadcasting System noted that the signatures pave the way for the Table Mountain Declaration to head towards its next destination, which is its presentation to the legislature for promulgation into law. The declaration seeks to decriminalize and expunge existing laws in Liberia’s law books such as libel, defamation, the infamous decree 88A that was introduced by Liberia’s military junta all of which had tended to muzzle press freedom and haunt journalists like a nightmare.
According to a lawyer that sympathizes with the agony and trials that the press in Liberia had gone through over the years, ‘if one is to nurture democracy with the sincerity that is devoid of hypocrisy, the best way to do so is by providing the enabling environment that guarantees press freedom; given that free expression is the fundamental corner-stone on which thrives every other freedom and realistic democracy in the world.
An official of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism stated that the list of journalists and media practitioners that fell afoul with the law and incurred the wrath of past administrations is long. According to him, they include: Tuan Wreh, an ex-editor of the government party owned Liberian Age newspaper, Rufus Darpoh one of Liberia’s veteran editors who was sent to Belle Yella, television anchorman Charles Gbenyon etc. One may for example wonder about the circumstances leading to the death of ex-BBC stringer John Vambo.
This is why Liberians commend Her Excellency President Sirleaf for the courageous act to turn over the pages of history by liberalizing the press in Liberia barely a year after the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill on which many African governments are dragging their feet was passed into law in Liberia, indicating that the last vestiges of anachronistic laws against press freedom in the Country had been finally removed. May God bless President Madam Sirleaf for giving the press in Liberia a new leash of life.
The press liberalization itself is not the end in itself, because where the rights of one person ends there the rights of another person begins. The newly achieved freedom should not be used by the media as a pretext to indulge in sensationalism and yellow journalism by infringing on the hard-won reputation of innocent citizens especially for financial gains. The press in turn is expected to be responsible and accountable for the abuse of the freedom, thereof.