During the height of the impasse between the Sierra Leone Judiciary and the Sierra leone Association of Journalists, I paid a visit to senior journalist Dr. Julius Spencer at his offices. It was my first time of visiting his well-furnished and tasteful offices and I was warmly welcomed. During the conversation which centered on how the impasse could be amicably ended, Dr. Spencer, who knew I had been subjected to a vicious police manhunt and then charged to Court under the countryís False News laws, quizzed me as to whether I now realised why it was important for all journalists to support the cry for the criminal libel laws to be removed unconditionally. My response, I could tell, shocked him to the core!
It was in July 2009 and my Criminal False News matter was at its height! I told the good doctor that not only did I still believe in the importance of retaining the Criminal Libel Laws to curtail some of the vermin in the local media but that the then-ongoing case which alleged I had published false news, had simply strengthened my resolve NOT to let up on my belief that the Criminal Libel Laws should stay firmly on the books. The visibly shocked Dr. Spencer tried to engage me in a debate on why I was wrong to still maintain such a stance and human rights blah... blah... blah... but I simply told the good gentleman that the human rights of any person to wave their hand (i.e: their right to freedom of movement) stopped precisely where their hand might meet my face and slap it (i.e: right not to be tortured). In other words, the right to freedom of speech is limited by the right to reputations!
Yes, after reading some of the libelous trash published as readable material in an IMC-licensed newspaper yesterday and in earlier editions and also reading how another such newspaper was reducing the issue about poor Alieu Sesay to his alleged appetite for women, this is one newspaper Publisher who firmly believes that until we can legislate and enforce Libel Insurance, some of these vermin should continue to face the potential threat of them going to Prison. These libelous sewer rats are enjoying under the shameful laxity of Mrs. Bernadette Coleís IMC (Posterity will judge her!) but they simply do not deserve the right to agitate for the removal of the Criminal Libel Laws. Rights come with Responsibilities. These guttersnipes cannot be shouting about their rights when they are not responsible! They only deserve to be LOCKED UP IN JAIL and in cases, of repeat offenders, the keys should be thrown away.
It is amusing to understand that the positive coverage that the Honourable Chief Justice regularly gets in Awareness Times is now a reported possible bias for any upcoming criminal or contempt action persons might be soon facing at the hands of Awareness Times. What a laugh that was yesterday! Almost as funny as someone claiming that First Lady Sia Koroma or Hon. Afsatu Kabba or Makalay Koroma are warning this newspaper! Ha ha ha! Anyway, is this not the same Chief Justice under whose leadership of the Judiciary I have been treated as a second-class citizen within her Courts? Why will anyone expect that I will get any preferential treatment within her Judiciary in the wake of some of what has been happening to many issues surrounding me at her Judiciary? Please just give me a break!
Meanwhile, I am reproducing an article I first published four years ago and which holds so true once again today. This article was first published FOUR YEARS AGO on April 7th 2006. It is being reproduced today for obvious reasons. We have been no fans of NRAís Alieu Sesay since he was appointed but as my April 7th 2006 article below says, "when innocent people (citizens and foreigners alike) find themselves facing the wrath of a so-called journalistís failed blackmailing, they call on our newspaper to help them set the records straight. People do this because they have come to recognise this newspaperís undiluted stance when it comes to fighting to protect innocent Sierra Leoneans from blackmailing journalists. The public has quickly come to respect what comes out in Awareness Times as being truth well researched and well told".
First Published April 7, 2006
By Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Next week Wednesday will see Awareness Times Newspaper, my newspaper clock its ninth month of existence. In just nine months, out of over fifty registered newspapers, Awareness Times newspaper is now indisputably ranked amongst the best selling and most respected authoritative newspapers in Sierra Leone.
Our news is fresh and our commentaries are exciting and inspire debates. Our print quality by Sierra Leone standards is acceptable.
With our now extensive national and international readership, it is no wonder that Awareness Times is now a very influential positive catalyst in this country. We donít blackmail and we donít trivialize. We are non-partisan and we donít publish gutter material under the guise of entertainment. Whether you like us or not, we have climbed right up the journalism ladder.
So much so that today, when innocent people (citizens and foreigners alike) find themselves facing the wrath of a so-called journalistís failed blackmailing, they call on our newspaper to help them set the records straight. People do this because they have come to recognise this newspaperís undiluted stance when it comes to fighting to protect innocent Sierra Leoneans from blackmailing journalists. The public has quickly come to respect what comes out in Awareness Times as being truth well researched and well told.
It can be no surprise because the team at Awareness Times research and double check everything we put out. When we are not sure, we simply do not publish! We donít second guess.
Having been subject myself to the wicked machinations of certain opportunists, I personally know what it means to read outright lies about oneself in print. I empathise and sympathise with the plight of many Sierra Leoneans who have woken up one morning to the experience of having the whole country read and believe ghastly lies about oneself from one irresponsible fool or the other, mis-naming himself a journalist.
I also empathise with and I sympathise with those citizens who attempt to challenge these "journalists" only to find themselves seeing even more trash being published about them in these "journalists" newspaper. This happens because the "journalist" owns a newspaper and the poor victim does not own a newspaper.
Well, no more. Awareness Times is now the peopleís newspaper. It is here to let the public hear your own side and we donít need money from you to air your own side. I have seen the need for an alternative medium which is not in awe of incurring the wrath of these so-called journalists by airing your own side in my newspaper. Just the same way as I have seen the need for this country to maintain the criminal and civil libel laws until such time our parliament can enact laws that enforce libel insurance which all registered newspapers should undertake. I have said it repeatedly that vermin and psychopaths should not be allowed to write down this nationís history.
A case in point is that of the otherwise fantastic Truth and Reconciliation Report which has been put to question by Hon. Reider who strongly alleges that one such afore-described "journalist" spoon-fed lies to the TRC about him including attributing the name Idowu to him which though never his name was guilelessly used in the TRC Report as his christened name. Imagine how much more damage is lurking around in our nationís history. How mad can our History get? Food for thought to those underestimating the dangers of allowing these madmen and blackmailing vermin to get away with what they are doing today under the guise of freedom of speech!
Just a few days ago on March 12th 2006 in the United Kingdom, former British Government Minister David Blunkett, used the libel laws of Great Britain to seek redress for himself against a newspaper named "The People". Although some local Sierra Leone journalists will want the public here to believe otherwise, Britain like the United States has some of the strongest civil and criminal libel laws on their books.
Finally, I will like to state that as far as sober-minded Sierra Leoneans are concerned, those people calling for our Libel Laws to be removed without suggesting practicable alternatives to these laws, should be ignored like one will ignore a headless chicken. They have no direction! So, until we can enforce libel insurance, long may the Sierra Leone Libel Laws Live!