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In Sierra Leone, 20 Days after Recklessness: Jonathan Leigh & BaiBai Sesay go back Home
By Aruna Turay
Nov 6, 2013, 17:10
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It was precisely twenty days ago on October 17th 2013 that the editors of the notorious Independent Observer newspaper, Jonathan Leigh and BaiBai Sesay decided to unleash on their readers, an article that was most grievous in content and designed to strip the Head of State bare of any semblance of a respectable pedigree or worthy character, whilst exposing the sitting Head of State to hate and disaffection in the society that extended to a front page call for the general public to treat the sitting President like one would treat a rat (i.e: exterminate the President).


However, in a recent press release signed by the two men, they expressed remorse and stated they did not believe the veracity of what they had published. In other words, they admitted that they were just reckless in their journalism.


Due to the outrage from aggrieved citizens especially supporters of the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) who stormed the Police to complain against the article, the two editors were picked up for questioning especially as the article had elements of treasonable intent in it. The law gives the Sierra Leone Police up to 10 days to detain suspects in cases of capital offences like treason. At the end of 10 days, the suspects can be set free or charged to court.


However, after only six (6) days of intensive investigations, the police ruled out the initial suspicion of treasonable intent and decided to charge the two editors for seditious intent. Clearly, all the actions of the police were perfectly within the ambit of the laws of the land.


After a series of legal proceedings that saw the editors charged with 26 counts under the Public Order Act of 1965, they were granted bail by High Court Justice Abdulai Charm. The bail conditions were stiffly set because the prosecution vehemently objected by pointing out that the two editors were flight risks; thus the Judge in his wisdom decided to grant bail but with stiff conditions. The editors were unable to meet the bail conditions set initially but finally on Tuesday November 5th 2013, they procured sureties who provided the needed guarantees of landed property valued at up to half a billion leones for each editor.The two editors have since been released on bail as of Tuesday 5th November 2013.


Noteworthy is that there is a civil matter brought against the editors by APC party in respect of the same publication.


The APC is asking for damages as APC says the article has brought the leader of the party into terrible disrepute and so by extension, the entire APC is now defamed for being presented as having such a bad leader for which they are demanding punitive damages to be paid by the editors.


Meanwhile, although a public apology has been issued to the President by the two editors, the needed retraction of the contents, clearly stating the numerous allegations to be outright lies, is yet to be done. Thus the full blown criminal trial of the editors which will look into veracity of numerous claims against the President, will commence on November 18th this year.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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