The Parliament of Sierra Leone has repealed the 1965 Public Order Act (POA) that criminalised libel and sedition in what has been hailed as a historic moment for press freedom in that country.

The lawmakers also unanimously approved the Independent Media Commission (IMC) Act 2020 during a sitting on Thursday July 23. 

The Speaker of Parliament, Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu, said the passage of both Acts was a triumph for democracy and good governance, as he thanked President Bio for delivering on his campaign promise.

Dr Bundu said the new IMC Act has  safeguards that enhance and strengthen press freedom.

He said Parliament has restored the dignity of the media by repealing the law and hope that responsible and professional journalism will hold sway in Sierra Leone. 

Sierra Leonean journalists have welcomed the repealing of the country’s most draconian law. The 55 year old law has been used by previous government in Sierra Leone to silence independent journalists. 

Prominent journalist and BBC correspondent Umaru Fofana wrote on his Facebook page: “I’m still in disbelief that my profession is no longer criminalized. Criminal Libel Law is now history in Sierra Leone. 

“Last night after it had happened I became so emotional that I cried. Slavery lasts for a while but freedom lasts forever!”.

Veteran journalist and Parliamentarian Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo MP said Public Order Act of 1965 had been hindering press freedom in the country. 

He recalled his days in journalism when they were indoctrinated about the dangers surrounding the Act. 

Mr Kargbo also spoke about efforts made by past and present executives of Sierra Leone journalists union to the repeal process.

“We have all tried our best to get to this point today. 

“I am satisfied that what we started several years ago has come into fruition.”

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