Friday, 11 May 2012


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 President Sirleaf 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.

WAN-IFRA worked in close collaboration with the Liberian Centre for Media Studies and Peace Building to secure President Sirleaf's endorsement of the Declaration.

The Declaration can be found at

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