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|Media Executive Wants Anti-Speech Law Reviewed|
|Published on June 17, 2011||Email To Friend Print Version
The Executive Director of the Liberia Media Center, Lawrence Randall says that there is an urgent need for comprehensive review of anti-speech legislations and the goal of ensuring that these laws are de-criminalized.
Speaking to an array of Journalists during a press conference, at the offices of the Liberia Media Center (LMC), Mr. Randall contended that starting now, all state officials should refrain from evoking statutes that are controlling, because according to him these statutes are obviously intended to punish criticism of state officials appointed or elected to serve the public.
Contending further, the Liberia media executive preserved that the use of these statutes only serve to perpetuate the days of repression and intimidation and for government that has made commendable efforts in promoting free speech, he said, this latest action seems to undermine those gains made by the government and unless swift, remedial actions, are taken the state's reputation will certainly erode.
The Liberia Media Center Boss edified that protection of speech is a fundamental pre-condition for the sustenance of democracy and the pursuit of stability. “When speech is prosecuted through criminal corridors, it stifles dissent and reduces the space for public and private debates and dialogue. Free speech performs three basic functions: it allows civil society to cohere; it facilitates commerce and; it makes and mix culture,” Mr. Randall added.
“Our attention is drawn to reports in the media that a spokesman for an opposition politician is being prosecuted by the government under one of several speech repressive and anti-press laws that the media community has perennially condemned and has called for its repeal, 'Criminal Malevolence”, he stressed.
Speaking further, Mr. Randall poise to give the definition of Criminal Malevolence that when a person commit a first degree misdemeanor and accuses any executive authority, judicial official, member of the legislature or any other public authority either verbally or writing or by public broadcast of conduct which constitutes the commission of a crime, provided, that at the time of such accusation: The conduct charge is untrue and; The purpose of the actor is to hereby injure the official in his reputation and undermine his official status.”
Clearly by its intent and construction, the Media Boss disclosed that journalists, activists and politicians have been the main targets of this act and thus, the statute, because of its criminal nature has succeeded in placing people in jail until they are released after filing a bond.
The Media Executive expressed regret and termed it as been strange that Liberia has continued to maintain these laws as most of the common law countries from where these statutes were transplanted have been repealed and/or de-criminalized.
“Hence, in its current form it places serious prior restraint on the conduct of rights activists and journalists and could serve a dangerous deterrence for robust reporting and critical assessment of government,” he said.
Mr. Randal described it as alarming to note that, the usage of these laws come at a time when the government has stated its intention to repeal such laws. He recalled that in response to issues of anti-free speech laws in the country during the 2010 Media Sustainability Index (MSI), the Ministry of Information made it known that the president had asked the PUL to work with the ministry for the repeal of these statutes.
He said the factual circumstances surrounding this case are not of primary interest. “As a freedom of expression organization, it is the continuous use of these types of statutes to address personal injury claims that has attracted our interest,” he added.