A press release issued by the Independent Media Commission (IMC) on 8th October 2008 disclosed that the Commission has concluded more complaints from the public.
The Independent Media Commission says it received a letter of complaint from the Solicitor General in respect of the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security with regards to an article published in the Standard Times Newspaper of Wednesday June 4, 2008 with banner headline: “Disgraceful! Minister of Agriculture Detained for Alcohol in America.”
The Release says the complainant informed members that he considered the publication defamatory, scurrilous and damaging to his reputation and personality.
“The Committee conducted several hearings into the matter at which the Acting Executive Editor of the newspaper and complainant were present,” the release says.
The Commission was able to establish that the minister did attend a party in Philadelphia at the time stated in the article and that the police in Philadelphia arrested one Mohamed Conteh for reckless driving and that the Minister Dr. Sam Sesay was in the vehicle at the time of the arrest.
“The witness that Standard Times alleged was present at the party and was also at the Police Station where the Minister was taken on being ‘arrested’ was unable to produce travel documents to prove he was in the United States at the time of the incident,” the release says, while adding that the paper did publish a statement from the Ministry of Agriculture dismissing its earlier report about the incident in Philadelphia as false.
“However in subsequent publications the Standard Times repeated the previous allegations and made further wide ranging allegations about the Minister’s conduct in office, his family and private life, which it was unable to substantiate at the hearings of the complaints committee,” the release states.
The committee therefore recommended that as the Standard Times Newspaper had failed to comply with the accuracy requirement in the Media Code of Practice, a fine of Le 500, 000 be levied against the editor to be paid within seven days.
He was also ordered to publish a retraction of the articles and write a letter of apology to the Minister.
A complaint for defamatory publication against Gibril Koroma and Editor O.R. Awoonor Gordon of the Peep Magazine has also been investigated by the Commission.
The commission received a letter of complaint from Mr. Philip Lukuley, Executive Director of the Maritime Academy over an article published on Wednesday 13th August 2008 captioned “Did Kemoh Sesay Receive A Bribe From Lukuley.”
“The Managing Editor of Peep Magazine, Mr. Olu Gordon stated that as he had been receiving numerous complaints on the matter of such nature about his Reporter who brought the article and based on the fact that he had failed to appear for work since the report was published, he was tendering his unreserved apologies and would also publish a retraction,” the release states, adding that the complainant was satisfied with the Editor’s response.
A complaint against the Managing Editor of the Satellite Newspaper brought by one Mrs. Johanna Williams over an article captioned ‘Corruption Stinks at SRTC’ had also been investigated by the commission.
The committee decided that the Managing Editor of the Newspaper publish a retraction to the offending article with equal prominence within 7 days.