Sierra Leone’s Minister of Information and Communication has ruled out the amendment of the country’s criminal libel law which campaigners say stifles free speech.

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The law criminalises libel and imposes jail term for offenders.

Information Minister Alhaji Alpha Kanu said last Thursday the law will remain in the statute books until the country`s democracy was advanced enough for people not to abuse freedom of expression.

“It is relevant for the moment until our democracy is developed” he said.

The law falls under the notorious colonial era Public Order Act, in force before independence in 1865.

Media campaigners have lobbied for it to be amended and have the criminal section removed.

Journalists, as the main victims of the law, have been particularly vocal against it.

But Mr. Kanu, who is also government spokesman, said the law was still relevant to protect the prevailing peace and security.

He said only a few journalists were against it because they did not want to abide by the rules.

If journalists stayed within the law nothing will happen to them, he said.

Amendment of the law was one of the campaign promises of President Ernest Bai Koroma when he first came to power in 2007.

But campaigners say he has reneged in his promise.