Sierra Leone ALERT: Newspaper faces criminal prosecution

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) on February 24, 2011 condemned threats by the country’s authorities to prosecute Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, publisher of Awareness Times, a privately-owned Freetown-basednewspaper with the antiquated criminal libel law.

According to SLAJ, the use of the seditious criminal libel law is illegal and a threat to media freedom and free expression.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) correspondent reported that SLAJ condemnation followed a complaint that the authorities filed against the Awareness Times at the Independent Media Commission (IMC), the media regulatory body, on February 22, over an article headlined : “‘What’s the Colour of the APC Leader’s Underwear?’

The article written by Johnson on February 17 accused President Koroma, who is also the chairman of the ruling All People Congress (APC) of belittling the presidency and reducing political discourse into male politician underwears’ and that his behavior has become known as the “Koromaism ”

The correspondent said the country’s Attorney General, Frank Bai Kargbo, in the complaint warned that, should the IMC fail to sanction Johnson, the government would be left with no option than to resort to existing provisions including the use of criminal prosecution under the Public Order Act of 1965.

“I shall be obliged, if the IMC would treat this complaint with utmost seriousness and urgency and bring appropriate sanctions at the disposal of the Commission to bear, ‘” the letter added.

“Even though SLAJ respects the rights and dignity of public officials and other members in society, we encourage them to make use of the Independent Media Commission, when they feel aggrieved against the media”, Umaru Fofana, SLAJ president appealed to the authorities. .

SLAJ reminded President Koroma redeem its government campaign pledge by repealing the law.

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