Judge publicly humiliated by ACC for corruption asks for fine to be reduced, but IMC stands by its decision.
8th June 2015: The Independent Media Commission stands by its decision taken four months ago to fine the Publisher of the INDEPENDENT OBSERVER , Mr. Jonathan Leigh , a total of Le 16,500,000 (Sixteen Million, Five Hundred Thousand Leones) for defaming colleague journalists Dr. Sylvia Blyden of Awareness Times and Rev. Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu of Cocorioko, who is also the country’s Minister Plenipotentiary to the United Nations.
In a public release today, the IMC stated that its fine, along with others imposed on newspapers, were in conformity with law.
Last Friday, a High Court Judge, Justice Allan Halloway, who was dragged out of his chambers at the Law Courts of Sierra Leone in 2009 and shamefully frogmarched to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) where he was indicted for soliciting and receiving bribes, ruled that the fines imposed on Mr. Leigh be reduced to one million leones for each of the three counts for which he was found guilty of character-assassination, though the judge himself conceded in his controversial ruling that the IMC followed the correct procedures in dealing with the matter and did not violate the principles of natural justice in handling the matter. The judge also ruled that the same be done to other journalists who have been fined by the IMC.
According to today’s edition of the AWARENESS TIMES newspaper, when Judge Halloway was arrested for corruption in 2009, Mr. Jonathan Leigh was one of the journalists who vigorously supported him. This leaves many questions hanging about whether Mr. Halloway was bribed to render such an outrageous ruling.
Awareness Times which has apparently seen the ruling wrote that the infamous judge said fines should not be excessive “to ensure local papers are not forced to close when they grievously malign poor citizens or when they create conditions of anarchy”. This means that the maligned judge placed more emphasis on the survival of errant newspapers than on the natural justice of punishing offenders for their crimes.
The most important thing about the ruling, though, is that Jonathan Leigh was not exonerated. The fact still stands that he was guilty of falsely seeking to malign the good names of Dr. Blyden and Rev. Kabs-Kanu as the judge himself conceded that the IMC did not violate the principles of natural justice.
8th June 2015
PRESS RELEASE: IMC’S INITIAL REACTION TO JUSTICE ALLAN HALLOWAY’S RULING
The Independent Media Commission (IMC) has taken cognisance of the ruling of Justice Allan Halloway on the matter between the Commission and the Independent Observer Newspaper. The Commission understood from the ruling which was read by the learned Judge on Friday 5th June 2015 that:
·The Commission followed the correct procedures in dealing with the matter.
·The Commission did not violate the principles of natural justice in handling the matter.
·That the fines were “excessive” and they should be “reviewed.”
The Commission would like to state that it is yet to officially receive a written copy of the judgment through its lawyer.
As an initial reaction, the Commission particularly notes that the ruling neither stated that the procedures it used were wrong, nor stated that the publication was ethical; which is one of the major concerns of the Commission in doing its work.
On the issue of “reviewing” or “reducing” the fines, the Commission would come out with its position after studying the ruling on the matter.
It could be recalled that the Commission had fined the Independent Observer Newspaper a total of Le 16,500,000 (Sixteen Million, Five Hundred Thousand Leones) for an article published on the 6th February 2015 edition of the newspaper. The said publication breached several provisions: Accuracy principle, a fine of Le 1,000,000 (One Million Leones), Copyright, a fine of Le 500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Leones), Privacy, a fine of Le 5,000,000 (Five Million Leones), Indecency and Pornographic Materials, a fine Le 5,000,000 (Five Million Leones) and publishing details of a person’s…individual lifestyle, or of any physical or mental disability unless these are directly relevant to the story, a fine of Le 5,000,000 (Five Million Leones).
The Commission noted that the last three breaches have no stipulated fines in the Code of Practice, and therefore utilized provisions in both the IMC Act of 2000 as amended in 2007 (Section 36 (3) and the IMC Code of Practice of 2007 (principle 31, p. 17) in levying the fines. The provision states that “Where no penalty is prescribed by or under this Act for any complaints inquired into by the Commission, the Commission may censure or impose a fine not exceeding Le 5,000,000 (Five Million Leones). Failure by the newspaper or magazine to pay the imposed fine shall lead to the suspension of the publication until the fine is paid.”
Finally the Commission is of the view that the fines imposed on the Newspapers are in conformity with the law.
Rev. Terrence Knox-Goba
EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, IMC
(For and on behalf of Chairman and Commissioners of IMC)
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.