Sierra Leone ALERT: Regulatory body fines media institutions for unprofessional conduct

The media regulatory body in Sierra Leone, the Independent Media Commission (IMC), has once again fined media organisations in Sierra Leone for unprofessionalism.

The media organisations include We Yone newspaper owned by the ruling party-All Peoples Congress (APC) as well as New Storm, Africa Youth Voices (AYV) and Weekly Express newspapers.

A press release issued by the IMC on May 27, 2015 said the media institutions breached sections of the IMC Code of Practice of 2007 and IMC Act of 2000, as amended in 2006 & 2007.

We Yone was fined two million Leones (about US$400), for breach of Section 32(2) of the IMC Act. This provision states that “Any Proprietor and any person who publishes or distributes any newspaper or magazine on which the name and business or residential address of the proprietor or publisher is not printed, contrary to the requirement of sub section (1) commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding Le 5,000,000.’’

The Weekly Express was fined a total of six million Leones (about US$ 1,200): three million Leones (about US$ 600) in accordance with principle 3 of the IMC Code, two million Leones for breaking the principle on defamation and one million Leones (about US$200) for the breach of the accuracy provision.

The IMC fined AYV a total of two million Leones: one million in accordance with principle 3 of the IMC Media Code of Practice and Section 36(3) of the IMC Act 2000 and one million Leones for breach of the accuracy provision.

The New Storm was also fined one million Leones for breaching Section 36(3) of the IMC Act of 2000.

The four newspapers were also required to publish a retraction “with due prominence (front page) and write a letter of apology” to the complainants of their newspaper articles.

Apart from these four newspapers that were fined, the IMC also warned News Watch and Metro newspapers, to desist from unprofessional misconduct.

The MFWA continues to appeal to the Sierra Leonean media to be guided by the IMC Code of Practice and the IMC Act. We also urge the IMC to find other means of recourse, such as lower fines, as the fines it issues have the tendency to cripple the country’s already under-financed media.

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