The President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Peter Quaqua, has welcomed the pronouncement made by the Liberian Government on the appointment of a commission to lead the process of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI).
In a statement released as part of this year’s World Press Freedom Day, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced the setting up of the commission which will oversee the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act.
Speaking at the official celebration of the day on the campus of the University of Liberia Thursday, May 3, 2012, the PUL President lauded the government for what he described as a good news on its decision to accede to the table mounting decision which obligates African states to decriminalizing press offences, as well as the pronouncement of the appointment of the commission by next week, which will be responsible to enforce compliance of the FOI.
The pronouncement by President Sirleaf of setting up the commission, comes with the first ever proclamation of the President declaring World Press Freedom Day as a working holiday. “This is truly good news, considering the announcement on World Press Freedom Day and the contribution both decisions are poised to make, with providing great space for the media to operate in our country, I think we should applaud the government for this,” he told the gathering.
Mr. Quaqua said the proclamation of World Press Freedom day to be observed has been an area of serious contention with the Ministry of Information, on grounds that the media has been used over the years to announce and promote several other international celebrations, and there have been no proclamation for its own celebration.
The PUL President further disclosed that as the world over fight for free press, decriminalizing media offences in Liberia is a growing cause for international discomfort, something he said simply holds back the opportunity to expressing descent and engaging governmental authorities to operate in the area of transparency and accountability.
He warned that until legislative actions are made towards repealing the judicial larder and the criminal malevolence law, such law will continue to threaten whatever claim of press freedom and free speech in Liberia, adding that surely Liberia needs to be the positive accession to governments that retains press freedom.
Mr. Quaqua further stated that the Union has submitted a bill to government for its perusal and consideration, but said in spite of such, government has backslide on free expression and press freedom, giving as examples, oral cases of attacks on the media by various stakeholders, where journalists have been barred from attending some public functionaries, the physical assault and seizures of equipment from some journalists, and most of all, the election eve closure of some media outlets, which he described as painting an extremely different picture of government’s recognition of descents.
“These actions are plainly wrong and only serve a negative picture of the government respect and believe in free media,” Mr. Quaqua noted.
He also used the celebration to warn journalists against committing ethical transgression, which he said needs to stop.
The world Press Freedom Day was attended by several officials of government, civil society organizations, the student community, as well as other local and international non- governmental Organizations and partners of the PUL.
The day’s celebration which began with an international media conference bringing together journalists from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, will continue today with the annual awards ceremony of the PUL at the Samuel K. Doe sports Complex in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.