Following complaints by individuals, Sierra Leone’s media regulatory body, the Independent Media Commission (IMC) has sanctioned eight newspapers—Torchlight, Democrat, Africa Youth Voices (AYV), Arigbo, Owl, News Watch, Champion and Nation Business and Finance—and Radio New Song, for unprofessionalism.
The MFWA’s correspondent in Sierra Leone reported that the Torchlight, Democrat, Arigbo and AYV newspapers were each fined three million Leones (about US$675) for breaching the defamation principle and one million Leones (about US$225) for the breach of the accuracy principle of the IMC Code of Practice.
The commission also fined the New Watch newspaper two million Leones (about US$450) for breaching the defamation principle while the Owl and Champion newspapers, were each fined one million Leones for breaching the accuracy principle.
The Nation Business and Finance newspaper was also fined five hundred thousand Leones (about US$112) for an article published on March 2, 2015. The article, headlined “Big Fool”, was against a former Minister of Information and Communications, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo. 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”.
In the case of Radio New Song, it was fined a total of three million Leones for breaching the inaccuracy and defamation principles of the IMC Code of Conduct.
In addition to the fines, the editors of the newspapers are to publish a retraction with the same prominence given the offending articles. They are also to each write a letter of apology to the complainants.
The MFWA is concerned about the unprofessional conduct by some sections of the Sierra Leonean media. As many as 15 media organisations have been sanctioned by the IMC in the last three months to remedy unprofessionalism. The Torchlight and Independent newspapers have been fined twice.
The MFWA continues to urge the media in Sierra Leone to be guided by the IMC Code of Practice and uphold the highest standards of the profession.