News / Africa

Journalists Voice Concern Over Arrests in Sierra Leone

Reporters Without Borders is calling on the government of Sierra Leone to drop all charges of seditious libel against journalists in the country. Seven journalists have been arrested since October and police have also searched two newspapers.
 
Jonathan Leigh, the managing editor and publisher of the newspaper The Independent Observer in Freetown, the country's capital, said he and his chief editor spent several weeks in prison last October after being interrogated by police and charged with seditious libel for publishing an article written by another columnist that compared Sierra Leone's president, Ernest Bai Koroma, to a rat.
 
The column also addressed apparent disputes between Koroma and his vice president, Samuel Sam-Sumana.
 
"We thought it fit that we should publish it, maybe for the president to know that there are people out there who are concerned about the way the country is being run, when there is a misunderstanding between the president and vice president," said Leigh.
 
Leigh and his editor were eventually released on bail of about $115,000 in November.
 
He added that the paper also printed an apology but the matter is still before the courts.
 
The International Press Institute has called for the charges to be dropped, saying they are too severe.
 
Reporters Without Borders expressed a similar view and stated police should not interfere but should instead send complaints to Sierra Leone's Independent Media Commission (IMC).
 
The IMC, which is separate from the government, regulates media in the African country. The commission has a code that states journalists should be objective in their reporting and keep themselves free from government or opposition control.
 
Government spokesperson Abdulai Bayraytay explained that it is up to each individual to decide where to file a complaint against journalists. It is not mandatory to go to the IMC.
 
He added that the government is not against freedom of the press, but if someone makes a complaint to the police they have to act.
 
"It is up to the police to determine whether they have sufficient evidence to prosecute a matter or not, but it is never a government policy to go after the media in any way," said Bayraytay.
 
However, Reporters Without Borders maintains the arrests are intimidation tactics from those in power.
 
Augustine Garmoh, the acting chairman of the IMC, said the actions taken against journalists in Sierra Leone are disconcerting.
 
"I would imagine those are deliberate attempts by government officials to keep journalists at bay... The moment you know your matter is in court, you're going to be mindful of what you write," said Garmoh.
 
Sierra Leone was ranked 72nd out of 180 countries in the 2014 press freedom index which Reporters Without Borders published earlier this month, 10 places lower than its ranking in the 2013 index.
 
The Sierra Leone police were contacted for this story but said no one was available for comment.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid