The Liberia Law Society (LLS) has called on the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and the government of Liberia to make a joint declaration to finalize the reform process that will decriminalize libel and defamation in Liberia by the end of the year.
A press release issued yesterday in Monrovia said while the Law Society joins the Press Union in the celebration of World Press Freedom Day, it believes that greater satisfaction will come when laws deemed as archaic, outdated and draconian are changed.
The Law Society concurs that both “our Constitution and International Laws provide the boundaries for free speech and press freedom along with concurrent responsibilities.”
Moreover, the Law Society commits to continue to work with the Press Union of Liberia and the people of Liberia in the pursuit of reforms of laws that will ensure that the exercise of press freedom and freedom of speech as guaranteed remained unhindered. The Society also acknowledges the collective struggle of all Liberians and friends of Liberia who have been resolute through the years to guarantee the level of political participation, freedom of speech and of the Press that we enjoy today.
Over several months now, the Law Society has been conducting research into reforming “our libel and defamation laws. Findings thus far reveal how these laws criminalize free speech and undermine the growth of a democratic culture in Liberia. We must, therefore, work to change them!”
The Law Society notes that in spite of various public commitments by the government to support free press, there are worrying signs that suggest gains made in this direction could be reversed.
Accordingly, on the day marked World Press Freedom Day, the Law Society calls on the Liberian government to make a solemn pledge not to use any law deemed draconian, archaic and anathema “to our hard won democracy.”
The Law Society calls on the government of Liberia to give meaning to the Table Mountain Declaration, which President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf endorsed by annulling any law on “our books which criminalizes free speech.”