Sierra Leone UPDATE: Charges against journalists dropped

Managing Editor of Independent Observer Jonathan Leigh and his colleague Bai Bai Sesay were on March 10, 2014, cautioned and discharged by a High Court in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown.

The MFWA’s correspondent reported that, prosecuting counsel, Ajibola Manley-Spaine, informed the presiding judge Justice Abdulai Cham, that the State had decided to drop 25 of the 26 charges of seditious libel.

The journalists then pleaded guilty to the remaining charge of conspiracy to publish a seditious article against the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma.
Counsel for the journalists Ansu Lansana, pleaded to the court to discharge Leigh and Sesay indicating that they had apologised to President Koroma. The presiding judge subsequently cautioned the journalists and discharged them.

Leigh and Sesay were arrested on October 18, 2013, for publishing an article said to be have been defamatory to President Bai Koroma and detained for 6 days without charge. Following protests by MFWA and Sierra Leone Journalists Association (SLAJ), the two editors were subsequently charged with 26 counts of seditious and defamatory libel.
If they had been found guilty, the two journalists would have faced up to a three-year jail term.

The MFWA welcomes the discharge of the journalists and urges journalists to adhere to the ethics of the profession. At the same time, we urge the Sierra Leone security force to uphold the principles of free expression and respect the rights of the media.

We also commend SLAJ for their contribution towards the discharge of the journalists.

For more information please contact
Sulemana Braimah
Executive Director
Tel: 233-0302-24 24 70
Fax: 233-0302-22 10 84

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