Justice Minister Christina Tarr
Free Expression Not An Absolute Right, Says Official
By Robert Dixon
MONROVIA, March 18 (LINA) -Deputy Justice Minister for Codification, Counselor Victoria Sherman Lang, has cautioned that the right to freedom of expression is not an absolute right.
She said freedom of expression is subject to limitations prohibiting libel, slander, sedition and copyright violations for which person’s affected can seek criminal sanctions against journalists in the form of fines and imprisonment or civil remedies.
She observed that any country attempting to move from the precarious stage of post-conflict reconstruction to stability cannot afford to ignore the media.
Cllr. Lang made the statement Tuesday at a one-day stakeholders meeting held at the Corina Hotel in Monrovia on an Act to Decriminalize the Violation of the Right to Freedom of Expression in Liberia.
The forum was organized by the local media development and advocacy group, Center for Media Studies and Peace building (CEMESP), in collaboration with the Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN/IFRA).
The Deputy Justice Minister observed that peace requires an open and independent media that disseminates accurate and credible information, and is not ignorant, stressing that it should not automatically be assumed that the media acts as a force for good, or that it will respect other people’s freedom, or that it is committed to impartiality or even contribute to stability.
“The Ministry of Justice takes this opportunity to call on the media to continue collaborating with our Ministry to combat the ills of society, in particular rape, drug abuse, and corruption in both the private and public sectors.” Cllr. Lang said.
She said while there are proponents of the view that there is a need for media regulation in order to create the desired media landscape over the long-term, others advocate that maximum freedom of expression should be given the media, the Liberia News Agency reports.
She explained that the Table Mountain Declaration seeks to promote press freedom in Africa and condemns criminal laws that provide for the jailing of journalists issued by WAN-IFPA and the World Editors Forum (WEF) at the 60th World Newspaper and 14th World Editors Conference in Cape Town, South Africa from June 3-6, 2007.
This Declaration, she said, has been signed by many countries in Africa, including Liberia, noting that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signed the declaration on July 21, 2013.