News / Africa

Sierra Leone Media Criticized for Rape Case Reporting

A man checks headlines of Sierra Leonean newspapers in Freetown. File photo.
A man checks headlines of Sierra Leonean newspapers in Freetown. File photo.
TEXT SIZE - +
— Women's rights groups in Sierra Leone are raising concerns about how the media is treating a 24-year-old university student who has accused the deputy education minister of rape.  The minister in question, Mamoud Tarawalie, was fired earlier this month after the rape charges were filed against him.  Groups are concerned that media coverage of this case will discourage other alleged victims from stepping forward in the future.
 
Ahmed Sahid Nasralla is the managing director for African Young Voices, a local radio station and newspaper in Freetown that has covered the rape case.
 
Nasralla has published photos of the alleged victim, an act some criticize but one he defends.
 
"In one of the photos, she was wounded on her lip and that one we showed.  And we distorted her eyes so you would not recognize her, but we tried to show areas where she got injured just so the public would know," explained Nasralla.
 
The director insists he took all necessary precautions to protect her identity.
 
Other local media outlets printed and broadcast the alleged victim's name and published a clear photo of her.  Some have accused her of lying.
 
An organization called LAWYERS, which stands for "Legal Access through Women Yearning for Equal Rights and Social Justice,” has cried foul.
 
The group says section 41 of the Sexual Offences Act of 2012 makes it an offense for anyone to publish or make public information about a rape victim.
 
Simitie Lavaly, the president of LAWYERS, says media actions in this case will reverse the gains for rape victims that have already been made.
 
"It will stop any other woman who has suffered this in silence and maybe not having the same publicity because it is not a minister or someone in public office.  It will stop them from coming forward and we feel that is wrong," said Lavaly.
 
One reason the sexual offense act was enacted last year was to offer better protection for victims to encourage them to come forward.
 
Often, rape cases go unreported because victims are afraid there will be repercussions from the perpetrators or they will be publicly shamed.  The issue is still very taboo and most times victims do not come forward for fear of being blamed for what happened to them.  Sometimes, their own family members do not believe them.
 
The act also stiffened penalties as a deterrent.  Prior to the law, the maximum penalty for rape was two years in prison, and perpetrators would often settle out of court.  Now, convicted rapists can be sentence to prison for up to 15 years and out of court settlements are not allowed.
 
Lavaly adds that both the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator have rights to safety and privacy.
 
"We want protection for victims and also for the accused person to have his constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty," said Lavaly.
 
LAWYERS has lodged a formal complaint to the Independent Media Commission of Sierra Leone, also known as IMC.
 
Augustine Garmoh, a commissioner with the IMC, says the complaint is being addressed seriously and editors of media outlets who identified the alleged victim are being called to meet with the commission.
 
"The press must not identify victims of sexual assault or publish any material likely to contribute to such identification unless there is adequate justification and by law they are free to do so," said Garmoh.
 
He says consent of the rape victim is irrelevant under the law and editors found in violation could face penalties including fines and being required to issue a formal apology to the victim.
 
As for the former deputy minister charged in this case, government officials say he was fired from his duties because the allegations are so serious that he cannot carry out his duties while an investigation is underway.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid