Sierra Leone Alert: Regulatory body sanctions newspapers and radio station to remedy unprofessionalism

Sierra Leone’s media regulatory body, the Independent Media Commission (IMC) has fined five newspapers—Torchlight, The Informant, Standard Times, Metro and Independent Observer—and Radio Bankasoka for breaching provisions in the IMC Act of 2000 (amended in 2006 and 2007) and the Media Code of Practice of 2007.

The MFWA’s correspondent in Sierra Leone reported that the Independent Observer newspaper, which was recently suspended for failing to pay an IMC fine, has been fined three million Leones (about US$675) for breaching the Indecency and Pornographic Materials principle of the IMC Code of Practice of 2007. The breach followed the newspaper’s publication of pornographic and indecent material in its “Weekend Wahala” column of February 13, 2015.

The Torchlight Newspaper was fined a sum of two million Leones (US$450) for publishing its February 19, edition without an imprint.

The Informant, Standard Times and Metro newspapers were each fined one million (about US$225) Leones for the breach of the IMC accuracy principle.

On January 19, 2015, The Informant newspaper published an article titled “Deputy Minister Threatens to Kill Sierra Leonean Musician”. This article accused the country’s Deputy Minister of Political and Public Affairs, Karamoko Kabba of threatening a musician, Ibrahim Kemoh commonly called “Kemzo B”.

The Metro published offending articles against Ansumana Jaia Kaikai, a Member of Parliament. The articles “Ansu Kaikai Who?” and “Ansu Jaiah Kaikai denies holding Presidential Ambition” were published on January 7, 2015 and January 9, 2015, respectively.

On September 14, 2014, the Standard Times newspaper published an article headlined “MP Implicated in Le200M Agric. Project”. The IMC said the newspaper failed to “make all reasonable efforts to check and cross-check the accuracy of the issues in the story before publication”.

Radio Bankasoka was also fined one million Leones for breaching the principle of accuracy, truth and impartiality.

According to the correspondent, in addition to the penalties, The Informant, Standard Times and Metro newspapers, and Radio Bankasoka were instructed to write a letter of apology to the complainants. The media organisations are also required to publish/broadcast three retractions with the same prominence given the articles/broadcast.

They are to pay the fines within seven working days, failing which the publication/broadcast will be suspended until the fines are paid.

The IMC has also warned the Managing Editors of the Nation and Exclusive newspapers and the Proprietor of the All-Met Business Journal newspaper.

The MFWA once again calls on the Sierra Leonean media to adhere to the IMC Code of Conduct and uphold the highest standards of professionalism.

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