Four Sierra Leonean journalists on July 2, 2019, regained their freedom, having spent four nights in detention, following their failure to meet stringent bail conditions imposed by a Magistrate Court in Freetown.
Sallieu Tejan Jalloh and David Johnson, Publisher and Editor of the Times SL respectively; Mustapha Sesay, Editor, and Abu Bakarr Kargbo, Senior Staff Writer, both of Standard Times Newspaper, had each been asked to provide three (3) sureties aged above 50 years, two of whom must have a house, be resident in the Freetown, holding a passport and be worth Le 350 million (about USD 40,000).
Accused of separately authoring and publishing defamatory articles about the complainant, Mohamed Pa Momoh Fofanah Esq, the four journalists appeared in court on June 28 after they were summoned the previous evening. They were charged with defamation and libel under section 27 of the Public Order Act, 1965 (Act No. 46 of 1965).
The four were detained at the Pademba Road Male Correctional Center in Freetown after failing to meet the conditions set by Magistrate Mark Ngegba. They were however released on July 2, 2019, after their lawyer, I. K. Mamie, negotiated for the bail conditions to be reviewed.
While the MFWA welcomes the release of the four journalists, we believe they should not have been detained in the first place. It is obvious that bail conditions were draconian and too onerous to be met before close of day.
We wish to take this opportunity to urge President Julius Maada Bio to honour his recent promise to decriminalise libel by submitting before Parliament a bill to repeal the repressive Part 5 of the Public Order Act, 1965.