Through a unanimous vote of yea, the Senate on Thursday, February 7, 2019, voted to concur with the House of Representatives in the passage of the “The Kamara Abdullah Kamara (KAK) Act of Press Freedom,” and same is being forwarded to President George Weah for his signature and to be printed into handbill.
President Weah submitted the Bill, which is in memory of the late former president of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL). It amends the Liberian Codes Revised, Penal Law of 1978 of Liberia, Chapter 11 by repealing three sections to be known as “The Kamara Abdullah Kamara Act of Press Freedom.”
The Senate Committee on Information, Broadcasting, Culture, and Tourism, in its report to plenary yesterday, recommended the passage of the Act in line with all the recommendations therein.
It may be recalled that in June 2018, President Weah, in a letter sent to the Legislature, quoted Chapter 11, Article 15 of the Liberian Constitution, which provides for freedom of speech and expression and a caveat of abuse thereof.
Additionally, he said that Liberia is a signatory to the Table Mountain Declaration, which demands that African countries abolish inflammatory and other related media laws.
President Weah said that the country is in anticipation of adhering to such legal instruments which enacted the Freedom of Information Law and established the Freedom of Information Commission.
“However, there appear to be challenges in the full implementation of these Acts. Section 11.11, Criminal Libel; against the President; Section 11.12, Sedition and 11.14, Criminal Malevolence of the Penal Laws of Liberia, which tend to impede freedom of speech and expression and acts committed thereof are considered to be criminal,” President Weah said in his letter.
He recalled that prior to his death recently, former PUL President Kamara A. Kamara, along with other media practitioners, played a pivotal role in the process to repeal those provisions of the penal law of Liberia, which impede freedom of speech and independence of the press, but lamented that he did not succeed.
“Therefore, the purpose of this Act is to repeal these sections of the penal laws that have the tendency of making Liberia non-compliant. In view of the above and in government’s commitment to uphold the Constitution, the declaration of Table Mountain and other international treaties related to the press and press-related activities, we request that you pass into law this legislation which will repeal these sections of our penal law that has the tendency to impede freedom of speech and expression that we have vowed to protect. ..,” President Weah’s letter said.
The Bill was sponsored by senators J. Milton Teahjay of Sinoe County and Francis Paye of River Cess County.
Meanwhile, the debate on an Act Prohibiting the Tenure of Public Officials within the Executive Branch of Government, began yesterday; but majority senators declined to adequately participate, arguing there was no sufficient time to go through the report submitted by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions.
The president of the Senate Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor allowed a motion proffered on the table for debate next Tuesday, February 12, 2019.