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NGC Manifesto Unclear about Press Freedom

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NGC Manifesto Unclear about Press Freedom

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Though he did not clearly commit to expunging the draconian law that makes criminals of journalists, he did say his party will “take steps to repeal Part 5 of the Public Order Act and all other laws that hinder press freedom in Sierra Leone.”   

The NGC 2018 Manifesto further states that Sierra Leone’s Constitution guarantees freedoms of speech and the press, although these rights are sometimes restricted in practice. Under the Public Order Act of 1965, criminal defamation is punishable by prison terms of three to seven years, while the separate crime of publishing false news is punishable by up to two years in prison.

It adds that the 2013 Right to Access Information  Act  includes  penalties  for  government  agencies  that  fail  to  comply  with  its provisions on information requests. Media in Sierra Leone are regulated by the IMC, whose members are appointed by the president on the advice of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) and subject to the approval of Parliament, according to the Independent Media Commission Act of 2000 as amended in 2006 and 2007.

It goes on to say that the IMC provides an alternative to litigation under the Public Order Act; aggrieved parties can register complaints with the commission, which grants them a hearing. If the IMC agrees that a complaint of  defamation or  falsehood  is  valid,  it  can  impose  a  fine  as  well  as  require the offending outlet to publish a retraction and an apology.

The IMC can also summon editors at its own discretion. The government frequently interferes with the work of journalists and media outlets  in  an  attempt  to  control  content  and  its  increasingly  aggressive  intimidation  of journalists has entailed both censorship and self-censorship.

It adds that to achieve the above goals, the party will create an environment in which the press is free and responsible, and providing useful information to the population; while it will work with the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) to ensure journalists in the country can do their jobs without let or hindrance.

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