Monrovia – Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Monday signed a pledge drawn up by global media rights bodies to boost press freedom and stop the criminal prosecution of journalists. Sirleaf signed the Table Mountain Declaration at a ceremony, saying
“we are committed to advancing free press and free expression not just in Liberia but to use our leadership role to promote it on the entire continent of Africa”.
She is only the second African leader after Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, to sign the declaration adopted by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) in Cape Town, South Africa in 2007. One of the main aims of the declaration is to abolish insult and criminal laws against journalists, who could however still be sued in civil court.
Sirleaf has instructed the swift amendment of laws which still prohibit free speech. According to the Press Union of Liberia these are laws on sedition, and criminal libel against the president. She urged the press to establish self-regulating measures and act responsibly, adding some journalists continue to “let the profession down” by failing to meet ethical standards.
“If those responsible cannot address this spectre of bad journalistic practice by imposing strong regulatory measures to curtail this increasingly rampant problem in the media, I fear the progress we have made could be undermined,” Sirleaf said