Public Order Act haunting Free Press in Sierra Leone

By Alpha B. Kamara

Cartoon created by De Monk

While the world observe Press Freedom Day on Friday journalists in Sierra Leone are still haunted by the 1965 Public Order Act which
criminalises any publication that is deemed defamatory or seditious.

Despite Sierra Leone’s constitution guarantees freedoms of speech and the press the 1965 Public Order Act is often put to use by the Government and public officials.

“I am pleased to inform you that a Cabinet paper with full concurrence from the Attorney General is now before Cabinet for consideration. It is my honest and genuine view that Part Five of the Public Order Act of 1965 should be repealed and will be repealed in the shortest possible time,” President Bio announced.

President Julius Maada Bio promised the imminent repeal of the criminal libel and sedition laws and the creation of a fund to support journalists
while interacting with journalists during his maiden media cocktail meeting on December 5, 2018 in the capital, Freetown.

Part Five of Sierra Leone’s Public Order Act criminalises any publication that is deemed defamatory or seditious and has been used as a regime to unduly target and imprison media practitioners and silence dissident views.

The government frequently interferes with the work of journalists and media outlets in an attempt to control content. In February 2015, Ibrahim Bundu, the majority leader in Parliament, warned journalists to cease discussing the auditor general’s report on the management of the country’s Ebola Fund, or risk being found in contempt of Parliament.

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