Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (pictured) was the first female elected to lead an African state, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. Now, she has committed to repealing criminal defamation, and to advancing freedom of expression across the African continent.
On Saturday July 21, Sirleaf joined South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger in endorsing the Declaration of Table Mountain, an initiative by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) that aims for the continent-wide abolishment of criminal defamation and insult laws, and the promotion of press freedom to a higher position on the pan-African agenda.
“We are signing the Declaration of Table Mountain in order to underscore our message loud and clear, to advance a free press and freedom of expression, not just in Liberia but the entire continent of Africa,” President Sirleaf said at a signing ceremony in Monrovia on Saturday.
Adopted at the World Newspaper Congress in Cape Town in 2007, the Declaration of Table Mountain has been described by WAN-IFRA's Director of Press Freedom Alison Meston as "an earnest appeal to all Africans, particularly those in power, to recognise that the political and economic progress they seek flourishes in a climate where the press is free and independent of governmental, political or economic control."
The signing ceremony took place on the same day that the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards, the most prestigious prizes for journalists across the African continent, were presented in Lusaka, Zambia. The African Journalist Awards are intended to honour talent, and to "reinforce the importance of the role of journalists in Africa's development."
Read WAN-IFRA's statement on Liberia's endorsement here.
Read the statement by Pansy Tlakula, the Speacial Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the African Commission on Human Rights and Peoples' Rights, here.
Read the Declaration of Table Mountain here.
Visit WAN-IFRA's Declaration of Table Mountain microsite.
Photo: courtesy of Erik F. Brandsborg via Flickr Creative Commons