Honourable Members of the Chamber of Parliament of Sierra Leone on Thursday 23rd July 2020 heaped praises on President Julius Maada Bio for fulfilling his promise to repeal Part V of the 1965 Public Order Act (POA) that criminalized libel and sedition.
Chairman of the Legislative Committee in Parliament Hon. Hindolo Moiwo Gevao said: “I want all of us to consider this moment as a solemn one in our democratic dispensation”. He also said that several people have made tremendous efforts for this moment to become a reality. He thanked President Bio for delivering on his manifesto. He said “Today we have seen a repeal of a law that several Sierra Leoneans have laboured under its axe. I, therefore, ask that this House gives a standing ovation to President Bio for repealing such a draconian law.” Acting Leader of NGC, Hon. Foday Mario Kamara also thanked President Bio for such a patriotic action, saying past presidents tried but to no effect. “Today, Sierra Leoneans will ask how safe we are in the hands of our journalists with regards to professional and responsible journalism.” On the significance of the process, he said with the repeal and amendment to the IMC Act, safeguards are now in place for responsible journalistic practice in the country and hence, called on citizens to join them congratulate President Bio for delivering on his electoral promise to the people of Sierra Leone.
Leader of C4C, Hon. Saa Emerson Lamina described the day as an epoch-making one, a new dawn for free speech in the country even though he stated that both present and past Presidents of the country had been very tolerant, not making crackdowns on practising journalists as in the case of other countries such as in The Gambia during Jammeh’s reign. As he commended present and past SLAJ executives for their relentless efforts, the MP urged for responsible journalism with the passage of the Bills. He also thanked President Bio for delivering on his campaign promise to the media. “RIP to the infamous Public Order Act and thank you to IMC and SLAJ”, he concluded.
Hon. Sidie M. Tunis of SLPP said repealing Part V of POA of 1965 is a clear manifestation of President Bio’s commitment to free speech. He used the opportunity to appeal to those in the private sector to promote and invest in the media; assuring that there are no barriers in that sector any longer. Turning to the press gallery, he said: “President Bio promised you and he has delivered!”
Veteran journalist and one-time president of SLAJ, Hon. Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo of main opposition APC said that he was satisfied that what they started several years ago has come to fruition. Beaming with happiness, he described the moment as a great day for Sierra Leone as he joined colleagues to respect President Bio for delivering on his promise.
Opposition APC leader in the House, Hon. Chernor R.M. Bah also thanked President Bio and others for repealing the infamous POA of 1965. He said they would continue to support good things and would never attempt to politicize any good effort; adding they would continue to acknowledge the good work of past leaders and governments.
Concluding, the Leader of Government Business, Hon. Mathew Nyuma summed it thus: “We came, we saw and we conquered,” as he reiterated their appreciation to the president. He said it was a moment worth celebrating by the nation. He recalled the dehumanization of President Bio by some journalists on his journey to State House but said today the crucified has become the saviour. “Today President Bio has done something ironic. He has removed the sword of Damocles that had been hanging menacingly over the journalistic trade.”
In his closing remarks, Speaker of the House of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Dr Abass Chernor Bundu said he was happy that Parliament has restored the dignity of the media and hoped responsible and professional journalism would hold sway in Sierra Leone.
On the IMC Act, the Speaker said all the safeguards were significant millstones to enhance and strengthen press freedom. He described the passage of both Acts as a triumph for democracy and good governance and profusely thanked President Bio for delivering on his campaign promise.