Liberia Announces Intention to Appoint FOI Commissioner

10 May 2012

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced in a May 3 statement that she will “very soon” appoint the country’s first information commissioner.

The position was created by the FOI passed in October of 2010, but has not been filled.

The announcement was praised by Peter Quagua, president of the Press Union of Liberia, in a speech on World Press Freedom Day, who commnetd that implementation of the FOI law so far has been “stalled.”

Sirleaf said in her statement, “Very soon, we will name an Information Commissioner whose job will be to assist us to implement this law.” The president also said, “We expect that the Commissioner will show respect for the spirit and intent of the law, and, at the same time, demonstrate an appreciable understanding of where our country has come from; where we are today; and, importantly, where we hope to be tomorrow.”

She cautioned the press to be responsible, saying:

I must express my concern that some members of the Liberian media have not conducted themselves well in line with the ethical standards of the profession. In protecting this freedom now and in the future, the Liberian press must do more to regulate itself. The Press Union of Liberia has a particular responsibility in this regards. This is necessary because history has shown that where gaps exist between freedom and responsibility – where we fail to show due regard for the responsibility that comes with the freedoms we enjoy – such failures are compensated for at the expense of freedom itself.

 Commenting on Sirleaf’s announcement, Quagu said, “This is truly great news…,” according a story on his remarks in The Inquirer. He also was very critical of government attacks on the media.

“One of the most important supporting measures towards strengthening the media in Liberia has been the passage of the freedom of information law in 2010,” Quaqua said, continuing, “Despite this huge progress, the law has effectively been stalled as the regulatory mechanism to enforce the law is yet to be operationalized.

He added:

We like to again take this time to applaud the Government for its commitment to appoint the Freedom of Information Commissioner. As we anxiously look forward to the appointment of the commissioner, we stand ready to support one who will be more interested in seeing the flow of information from government and public bodies to the public, than one which will be finding excuses for the inability of public functionaries to contribute to expanding the space for transparency, accountability and integrity in Liberian government.

 As a further demonstration of our support, we are shortly to witness, as part of this celebration today, a debate between the Stella Maris Polytechnic and University of Liberia on the implementation of the law under the proposition, “Should the Denial of FOI Requests be allowed in Countries at certain stage of Development?

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