The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), has proposed amendments to seven sections of the Criminal Offences Act, Act 29 of 1960 that criminalized freedom of expression.

The sections include publication of false news, advertising reward for the return of stolen property, publication or sale of obscene material, further offences relating to obscenity, indecent inscriptions and advertisement as to venereal disease.

Professor Kwame Karikari, Executive Director of MFWA, said the proposal was to engage political parties to discuss the sections for onwards presentation to the next government, come January 2013.

He said it was also to look at some of the legislation whether it was still relevant under the 1992 Constitution.

He noted that the amendment process would create balance for security and enhance the improvement in the country’s democratic process.

Mrs Ugonna Ukaigwe, Programme Officer, Law Reform and Legal Defence, MFWA, said the proposed amendment introduced certain legal structures designed against the uncertainties inherent in the application of the provision as presently administered.

She said the amendment also aimed to tighten the language deployed with the view to rectifying the certainty deficit inherent in the application of the Law.

“The present language in which the law is couched makes it susceptible of abuse and this has chilling effects on the exercise of free speech,” she added.

Mrs Ukaigwe again said the proposals heightened the nature and scope of prosecutorial discretion of the state by redefining the offence.

She said in section 208 (1) of the Act the words “…… likely to cause fear and alarm to the public peace” should be reframed to read, “…… Which is calculated to cause a breach of the public peace.”

She said the section 208 (2) says “it is not a defence to a charge under subsection (1) that the person charged did not know or did not have reason to believe that the statement, rumour or report was false.”

The proposal say: “it shall be a defence to charge under subsection (1) of this section where a person shows that he did not know that the said statement, information or report was false,”.

Mrs Ukaigwe said section 284 (1), which read “An advertisement relating to venereal disease, nervous debility or any other complaint or infirmity arising from or relating to sexual intercourse…” should be amended to read: “Any advertisement relating to any preparation containing aphrodisiac properties shall be an offence…”.

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