World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers


Liberia To Join Movement to Repeal Criminal Defamation

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Liberia To Join Movement to Repeal Criminal Defamation

2012-05-08

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) has welcomed Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s commitment to press freedom after her public endorsement of the Declaration of Table Mountain, a continent-wide call to repeal criminal defamation and 'insult' laws.

“This Declaration seeks to adjust the statutes under which journalists may be prosecuted in court by decriminalising those statues,” said the President in a speech delivered on 3 May to commemorate World Press Freedom Day. “All of these, and more, we will continue to do to advance the cause of a free press and a more expressive society.”

President Sirleaf, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, becomes the second head of state to endorse the Declaration, following Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou’s commitment made in November 2011 at a public ceremony held in the Nigerien capital, Niamey.

The Declaration of Table Mountain was adopted at WAN-IFRA’s World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum held in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2007, the annual summit meeting of the world’s press. Numerous press freedom and civil society organisations, including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have endorsed the declaration, which identifies criminal defamation and 'insult' laws as amongst the most severe obstacles to securing the future of the independent press in Africa.

 “We are delighted that President Sirleaf has added her voice to those committed to repealing insult and criminal defamation laws across Africa,” said Larry Kilman, Deputy CEO of WAN-IFRA, who called on other African leaders to follow her example.

“Only through the elimination of these onerous laws can the independent press in Africa be truly free to carry out its duty as a watchdog, and contribute to societal, cultural and economic development,” he said.

The vast majority of African nations continue to jail journalists and close media houses on charges of defamation or for "insulting" authorities or their policies. The practice prevents legitimate public discourse and critical writing and leads to self-censorship.

The Declaration can be found at http://www.declarationoftablemountain.org

African organisations that have endorsed the Declaration of Table Mountain include: The African Editors Forum, Freedom of Expression Institute, Media Institute of Southern Africa, Media Foundation for West Africa, Observatoire-OLPEC, The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, Institute for the Advancement of Journalism, South African National Editors' Forum, Journaliste En Danger, National Union of Somali Journalists, African Media Initiative, and Liberian Centre for Media Studies and Peace Building.

International organisations that have endorsed the Declaration include: International Pen, Reporters Without Borders, Article 19, Index on Censorship, International Press Institute, World Press Freedom Committee, Committee to Protect Journalists, Media Rights Agenda, Freedom House, International Publishers Association and the Media Legal Defence Initiative.

The Declaration of Table Mountain campaign is supported through a strategic partnership between WAN-IFRA and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency to advance media development and press freedom worldwide.

More on the projects under the partnership can be found at http://www.wan-ifra.org/microsites/media-development

WAN-IFRA, based in Paris, France, and Darmstadt, Germany, with subsidiaries in Singapore, India, Spain, France and Sweden, is the global organisation of the world’s newspapers and news publishers. It represents more than 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries. Its core mission is to defend and promote press freedom, quality journalism and editorial integrity and the development of prosperous businesses.

Inquiries to: Larry Kilman, Deputy CEO and Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs, WAN-IFRA, 96 bis, rue Beaubourg, 75003 Paris France. Tel: +33 1 47 42 85 07. Fax: +33 1 42 78 92 33. Mobile: +33 6 10 28 97 36. E-mail: larry.kilman@wan-ifra.org

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WAN-IFRA’s Declaration of Table Mountain is an earnest appeal to all Africans, particularly those in power, to recognise that political and economic progress flourishes in a climate where the press is free and independent of governmental, political or economic control. Read more ...

In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...

The African Press Network (RAP21) is a digital network that supports a strong independent press throughout Africa by sharing, distributing and exchanging information between newspaper publishers, editors, journalists and human rights advocates. Read more ...