Liberian Senate Passes FOI Bill, President to Sign

3 September 2010

The Liberian Senate Sept.  2 unanimously passed a freedom of information bill that the country’s president is expected to sign.

Passage of the FOI law puts Liberia on the brink of history making in West Africa, according to Malcolm Joseph, the chairman of the Liberia Freedom of Expression Coalition.  Liberia will become the first West African country with a FOI law, Joseph said.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has indicated her support for the law.

The Senate’s action followed passage of a bill by the House of Representatives on July 22.

According to one press account, some changes were made in the Senate version. The Liberian Senate on Aug. 18 conducted a public hearing on the bill where expert witnesses urged passage.

Senate Pro-tempore Cletus Wotorson was quoted as saying that under the act journalists, as well as the general public, will have the right to obtain any public document and that protections are included for people’s privacy and matters relating to national security.

Lobbying for the bill were the Liberia Freedom of Expression Coalition, The Liberia Media Law and Policy Reform Working Group and the Liberia Civil Society Consortium on Freedom of Expression.

The Liberia Coalition for Free Expression was launched in Monrovia on May 3, 2008, as part of the activities commemorating World Press Freedom Day. Besides CEMESP, the other members of the coalition are the Press Union of Liberia, the Liberia Media Center, the Liberia Women Media Action Committee and the Institute for Media Development and Dignity.

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