By Bampia James Bundu
It was observed and from spontaneous reactions that news making the rounds in different circles that the Public Order (Amendment) Act tabled in Parliament for deliberation and approval five months ago had been withdrawn, dropped like a thunderbolt and sent shock waves across Sierra Leone.
Initially, the rationale behind the withdrawal remained unclear not until it was clarified by the Ministry of Information and Communications. It did not come as a surprise that the Ministry lost no time in reaffirming Government’s commitment to repealing the draconian law.
The Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rahman Swaray, has injected fresh enthusiasm into his untiring effort in actualizing President Bio’s vision for a free and pluralistic media in Sierra Leone.
Repeal of the criminal libel law has not been done by successive Governments despite making firm commitments in that direction.
President Bio reaffirmed his commitment to expunging the draconian law from our law books upon assumption of office.
Since his appointment as Information Minister, Mohamed Rahman Swarray, has worked assiduously with partners and the law office to ensure that the libel law is struck off completely from our law books.
The New Direction Government has already received global acclamation for taking tangible steps to fulfil its electoral promise for a free press.
The Amendment Act has been successfully drafted and tabled in Parliament since last year.
It was however unfortunate that the Bill was never discussed until the legal instrument supporting its stay in Parliament expired as a result of time lapse.
However, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), under the leadership of Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, resisted the urge to jump into conclusion that the Government was not serious about repealing the law, chiefly because the SLAJ leadership knows how passionate the Minister of Information is with regards repealing the criminal libel law.
As someone who does not disappoint, Minister Swaray is already making frantic efforts to ensure that the Bill returns to Parliament and gets deliberated on and passed into law.
The Minister sees the repeal process as his baby and one of his would-be legacies as a Minister and loyal soldier to the President.
He is therefore poised to do everything legally possible to ensure that the law books are rid off the criminal libel law.
How refreshing it is to have a Minister and President who are so passionate about doing the right thing especially when it comes to press freedom.