afrol News, 11 October - After Liberia's President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf last week signed off the wide-ranging Freedom of Information Act, African editors have decided to award her with a "friend of the media" title.
Liberia has become the first West African nation to introduce a Freedom of Information Act, which will assure both government transparency and free access to state documents. In a move welcomed by free expression groups across the country, President Johnson-Sirleaf signed the new legislation on 4 October.
With assumption of the right to public information, ordinary Liberian citizens and the national media are now empowered by access to publicly held information. The new law also strengthens the government's professed fight against corruption, by providing opportunities for greater transparency and accountability.
The law comes after two years of intense lobbying by the Monrovia-based Centre of Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP) and other Liberian media freedom organisations. CEMESP in a statement hailed the new law saying it "signals greater opportunities for Liberian people to participate in the country's governance."
"The new law is a wonderful and much welcomed outcome that is expected to dramatically change the landscape for media development in Liberia," the groups added.
Today, Ms Johnson-Sirleaf also is hailed from abroad. The African Editors' Forum (TAEF), a continent-wide groups of Africa's most senior editors, announced that the Liberian President would be one out of five leaders declared "Friends of the Media in Africa" at its upcoming conference in Bamako.
President Johnson-Sirleaf will be honoured along with former South African Presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki and the former Presidents of Ghana and Mali, John Kufuor and Alpha Konaré. The Liberian President is sending her Deputy President and a Minister to Bamako to receive her award, which will be given as consequence of the Freedom of Information Act.
Meanwhile, President Johnson-Sirleaf in August had launched Liberia's first-ever radio station with a female ownership. The 'Liberian Women's Democracy Radio' from the Mudhole community is to focus on women issues and rights, transmitting in seven municipalities. It is only the fourth women community radio world-wide.
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